We’ve heard the buzz word antioxidant in the media for years now. We know antioxidants are good for us, but do we really understand what the heck they are and how they benefit us?
Here’s the basic, basic, basic (did I mention basic?) version of what happens:
Free radicals are formed when oxygen reacts with certain molecules inside our bodies. These molecules become oxidants and they are bad (hence the need for ANTI-oxidants to combat their badness). Remember back to chemistry class and atoms? Protons, neutrons, electrons, etc? Remember that atoms need to be stable, and that an even number of electrons helps make them so? (Wait, what?? You don’t remember everything from your high school chem class? Geeze!) Well, no worries. I just reminded you. And that’s all you really need to know for this basic (did I mention basic?) lesson.
So oxygen reacts with molecules in our bodies and free radicals are created. Free radicals are unstable and need extra electrons to become stable, and also, they are jerks. They steal other atoms’ electrons to stabilize themselves. The problem is that this now leaves the other atoms unstable. The atoms they steal from could be atoms that make up DNA (kind of a big deal, no?), cell membranes, proteins, and a whole host of other important molecules in our bodies.
The presence of free radicals in and of themselves is not the bad thing. Its what they do to stabilize that causes problems. Free radical damage has been linked to diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Aaaand, how do antioxidants help? Essentially anitioxidants donate the extra electrons the free radicals need in order to become stable so the free radicals don’t have to steal. This helps keep the important molecules in our bodies intact, and helps keep us healthy in the long run.
How do you get anitoxidants into your system? You eat anitoxidant-rich foods! Think of foods whose flesh (not just skin!) is a deep, rich color, and you probably come up with foods that have serious antioxidants properties. Grapes, berries, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes etc. You’ll also find antioxidants in foods rich in omega-3 fats such as oily fish and nuts.
Not only do these foods help support clean eating and weight loss goals, but they can help keep your body healthy at the most micro-level. If you aren’t incorporating them into your diet already, get on it!