If you look at the term antioxidant, you can likely figure out the roots of the word. Anti meaning against and oxidant referring to oxygen and oxidization – antioxidant!.
Wait a minute – against oxygen? Don’t we need that to survive? Of course we do as oxygen is a large component of the air we breathe.
However, the way our system is set up, the molecules of our cells become oxidized because of the oxygen intake causing one of the electrons to shake loose from the molecule. This makes the molecule become unstable and known as a free radical.
The worst thing about this whole situation is that just about everything contributes to this oxidization process so our body’s are pretty much constantly producing more free radicals. Air pollution, cigarette smoke (yours or someone else’s), alcohol, stress, even sun exposure all contribute to the process.
Thankfully, nature herself has provided a countermeasure for all the damage caused by free radicals – antioxidants. These handy little nutrient compounds come along and donate a spare electron to the unstable molecule, turning it stable again.
The most amazing thing about antioxidants is that there are so very many of them and more are being discovered every day. Your body actually produces some antioxidants on its own while the rest need to be consumed through the food we eat.
Some of the everyday vitamins and minerals that we’ve long known are necessary for optimal health turned out to have antioxidant properties like vitamin C and zinc.
More, however, have been discovered as scientists discover and isolate substances in nutritional compounds. Things like flavonoids, lutein and resveratrol are all recent discoveries in antioxidant research.
Each antioxidant we discover has turned out to have other benefits, as well. Obviously, we knew that vitamins and minerals had other purposes within the body. Turns out so do all the other substances that have been discovered.
Antioxidants can have anti-inflammatory properties, help keep arterial walls flexible and even prevent mutation at a cellular level.
No one antioxidant is the most important or valuable. Instead, research shows that antioxidants work together within the body to have more powerful abilities. Some combine to create a new antioxidant substance that isn’t present without the initial two substances getting together.
Supplements of antioxidants that have other benefits, such as vitamin C with its immune boosting power, certainly won’t hurt you. However, you should be eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains in order to be getting full benefits from all the thousands of antioxidant micro-nutrients.