What Are Antioxidants?

Am I the only one that is skeptical about the antioxidant hype? It's a marketing buzzword in the healthy foods industry but no one has ever bothered to explain it - until now.


If you are like me and thinking that perhaps antioxidants are. big hoax, keep reading. This article is a culmination of what I found in my research about antioxidants.


What Are Antioxidants?


Antioxidants are compounds, or molecules, that fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable atoms. For those chemistry-enthusiasts, free radicals are unstable because they have an unpaired electron in an atomic orbital.


And for those of you that got a B- or worse in chemistry, all you need to know is that free radicals in the body are connected to illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. They attack other molecules that keep our bodies healthy.


Free radical = the bad guy in our story


But here comes antioxidants to save the day!


The human body produces antioxidants on its own to fight against free radicals. On a molecular level, antioxidants are stable. They can give an electron to a free radical to make it stable too and therefore take away its ability to harm other molecules.


While the human body naturally produces antioxidants, you can also find them in various food items such as nuts, berries, and dark chocolate.


How Do Antioxidants Work?


Ideally, the body has a balanced level of free radicals and antioxidants. Because free radicals are forming constantly the body needs an appropriate level of antioxidants to fight back.


When there are too many free radicals, it can cause oxidative stress. Prolonged oxidative stress is linked to the oxidation of lipids and proteins which can cause DNA and cellular damage.


Oxidative stress may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disease, and neurological disease.


Antioxidants work by slowing down or preventing damage from free radicals. Therefore, antioxidants can decrease oxidative stress. With the proper balance of free radicals and antioxidants, the body can function properly and remain healthy at a cellular level.


Antioxidants In Food


When you eat foods that are rich in antioxidants, your blood antioxidant levels rise which reduces the risk of the diseases mentioned above. Antioxidants in foods are measured using ferric reducing ability of plasma analysis aka FRAP. A higher FRAP value means more antioxidants.


Here is a list of the top 10 highest FRAP foods:

  • Dark chocolate

  • Blueberries

  • Strawberries

  • Goji berries

  • Red beans/red kidney beans

  • Pinto beans

  • Cranberries

  • Artichokes

  • Blackberries

  • Prunes

As you can see, most of these foods are fruits or beans, but you can also find antioxidants in nuts ( walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans) and cereals (corn flakes, oatmeal).


Antioxidants Are Very Real


Well, I guess I was wrong. Antioxidants are real and they can be explained by science. And while they might not cure every ailment on the planet, they can support healthy cellular function and reduce risks of certain types of disease.


And the best part is that adding them to your diet isn't hard to do. A few more servings of fruit, beans, cereal, or dark chocolate sounds pretty easy to do!


Read more health exploration articles on my blog! :)