Are The Benefits of Antioxidants Really True?
Basically, the short answer is yes – there are so many benefits of antioxidants, that you seriously need to include them in your diet and in your skincare products. The easiest way to explain about antioxidants is to start by saying that antioxidants reverse the damage caused by free radicals. The problem is – what are free radicals and why do they need fixing?
So before we look at the benefits of antioxidants, let’s first take a look at free radicals, so we can understand the benefits of antioxidants to your health.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals occur naturally in our body and are single oxygen atoms that lack one outer electron. When two oxygen atoms combine to form an oxygen molecule, they share one another’s outer electrons, giving both atoms the correct number of electrons.
An oxygen molecule is therefore stable, but oxygen atoms that lack a full load of electrons in their outer shell are unstable and they search for other atoms or molecules with the goal of stealing an electron to give them a full complement of electrons. This leaves the attacked atom or molecule with one less electron, which in turn, makes it a new free radical, which itself then hunts for another atom or molecule from which it can steal an electron, and so on. Unless this process is stopped, it continues to cascade – which can be a problem, because too many free radicals can result in serious medical conditions.
Some of these conditions include:
Free radicals do play a positive role in your body however, because they help to remove toxins and waste products from your body, as well as fighting against viruses. It is when there are too many free radicals that the problems start.
What is an antioxidant?
This brings us back to antioxidants and why they are so important to your health. As we just mentioned above, too many free radicals are a problem, which is where antioxidants come into the picture. Antioxidants combine with these free radicals, donating one of their own electrons and making the free radical stable.
What’s really important and vital in this process is that the antioxidant doesn’t become a free radical when it donates one of its electrons to the free radical. Just as importantly, the free radical which now has received an electron from the antioxidant, is no longer dangerous, but is now stable.
You can appreciate however, that if there are a lot of free radicals present, your body needs an equal number of antioxidants to make as many of these free radicals stable as possible (the ones your body doesn’t want). Normally, with a good diet and a healthy lifestyle this isn’t a problem and you have sufficient antioxidants to stabilise the unwanted free radicals. A poor diet and lifestyle are the key factors (apart from genetics) that can accelerate the number of free radicals in your body, resulting in premature aging and other health issues mentioned above.
Some of these factors include:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Eating fried foods and refined carbohydrates
Over exposure to UV rays
Do you need to eat more antioxidants?
That’s a hard question to answer, because only you know your how good or bad your diet and lifestyle really is and whether you need to make serious changes. On the one hand, if you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, you most probably have a diet naturally high in antioxidants, but if you smoke or spend an excessive time in the sun, your diet could most probably do with a boost in antioxidants.
On the other hand and all things being equal, it unlikely to do any harm if you improve your diet by increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables you eat, which increases your antioxidants and gives your body a buffer to attack the unwanted free radicals.
Foods that are high in antioxidants include:
What are super antioxidants?
Super antioxidants are a misnomer, because they don’t actually exist. In fact, to our knowledge, there is no way of comparing one antioxidant with another to know which ones are better than others at disarming free radicals. Of course, we understand the benefits of antioxidants, however whilst there are foods that are very high in antioxidants compared to other foods, there is no way to classify certain antioxidants as ‘super antioxidants’. Foods high in antioxidants tend to be called ‘super foods’; it’s quite likely that ‘super foods’ morphed into ‘super antioxidants’. So when you see antioxidant supplements advertised as ‘super antioxidants’ this advertisement doesn’t mean that their antioxidants are ‘super’.
It’s fair to say that all brands will contain a different collection of antioxidants and in different concentrations than other brands, but whether one brand is better than another is subjective. If you feel that your diet doesn’t supply you with enough antioxidants to reverse the damage caused by free radicals – themselves a result of your poor lifestyle, then you can include antioxidant supplements in your diet. Of course, ramping up your supply of natural antioxidants in your diet and improving your lifestyle is the best solution!
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