Focus On: Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds produced in your body and found in foods. They help defend your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they may cause a state known as oxidative stress. This may damage your DNA and other important structures in your cells. Sadly, chronic oxidative stress can increase your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer

What Are They?

An antioxidant is a class of molecules that inhibit oxidization of other molecules. Environmental toxins such as car exhaust or cigarette smoke contain free radicals, which damage cells in your body through oxidation. Antioxidants block this damage by neutralizing the free radical. Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, lycopene, letein, zeaxanthin, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, quercetin, ellagic acid, and hesperidin are all examples from this broad category of nutrients.

Natural Sources

Antioxidants are found within fruits and vegetables, especially those that are rich in color. For example, blueberries, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, oranges, pomegranates, kiwi, pink grapefruit, and green tea are potent sources, as are coffee and red wine.

Pine bark extract and grape seed extract also contain antioxidants, so does the spice turmeric. Oh, and indulge in a piece of dark chocolate once in a while—it, too, has a high antioxidant content.

Digging Deeper

Antioxidants are chemical properties, not an actual substance, and act differently depending on the antioxidant type. Each has its own chemical and biological composition therefore it’s best to eat a variety a fruits and vegetables as each antioxidant has a different role in repairing cell damage.
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Supplementation

Antioxidants are found in vitamins, therefore a blend of basic antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as C, E, selenium, and beta-carotene are a good place to start. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can be found in supplement form. N-acetyl cysteine is available only in supplement form, but functions as both an antioxidant and a detoxifying agent.

Benefits

Cell damage occurs on a daily basis and is linked to disease and symptoms identified with aging. Antioxidants prevent and slow down development of diseases and ailments such as cancer, lung and heart disease, macular degeneration, high cholesterol, blot clot formation, and cataracts.

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