Antioxidants: Hype or Helpful?

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You’ve probably heard plenty about antioxidants already. Whether promoted in skin care, foods, or beverages, there are a lot of claims linked to these compounds. But can they really make you look younger, feel better and prevent cancer?! Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the activity of chemicals known as free radicals. Free radicals occur naturally in the body and also enter via toxic environmental conditions. Free radicals are highly reactive and damage the body’s cells.

Antioxidants are produced naturally by the body, but can also be found in many foods and supplements.

Rightly known as “free radical scavengers,” antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, lessening cell damage.

The Effects of Free Radicals

Nobody is immune to the damage free radicals can do. Medical text Contemporary Ayurveda explains:

Free radicals are molecules, usually of oxygen, that have lost an electron. That loss makes them unstable (in chemical terms, reactive). They begin to covet their neighboring molecules’ electrons. In stealing an electron, they operate as terrorists in the body. They can attack DNA, leading to dysfunction, mutation, and cancer. They can attack enzymes and proteins, disrupting normal cell activities, or cell membranes, producing a chain reaction of destruction. Such membrane damage in the cells that line our blood vessels can lead to hardening and thickening of the arteries and eventually to heart attacks and strokes. Free-radical attacks on collagen can cause cross-linking of protein molecules, resulting in stiffness in the tissue.

While our bodies are naturally equipped to be able to handle some of this free radical activity, the increased amount of toxins in our environment has led to a greater risk of too much exposure. Too much free radical activity can lead to a number of health complications – both serious and minor – including

  • early aging
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • body stiffness
  • decreased immunity
  • dandruff
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoporosis
  • ulcers
  • cataracts
  • Chron’s disease
  • senility

The huge range of different health issues all boils down to the cell damage free radicals cause.

Helpful Benefits of Antioxidants

antioxidants

Antioxidants inhibit the activity of free radicals, decreasing the amount of cell damage and lowering the risk of related health issues. The aforementioned medical text goes on to explain:

The implications of free radicals and ROS go further. It now seems that the ‘clinical presentation’ of many diseases – how the illness appears when a patient arrives at a clinic – may in part reflect not different causal mechanisms, but variations in the protection provided by the body’s antioxidant (anti-oxidative stress) defenses. In a hurricane, the weakest section of a house collapses first, whether it is a window, a door, or a roof. Under oxidative stress, the weakest link in the body may be the first to give way.

Sources of Antioxidants

While our bodies produce antioxidants naturally, we can aid this process with foods that contain antioxidants as well as those that help us make more! Fruits and veggies are the big players here. Some of those highest antioxidant content include:

  • beans
  • berries (particularly blueberries)
  • artichokes
  • pecans
  • apples
  • plums
  • russet potatoes

Oils containing antioxidants – like rose hip seed and olive oil – also aid in slowing the skin’s aging process. That’s why we put them in skin solution – it’s all part of protecting, nourishing, and healing the skin naturally.

 

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