You’ve heard of them. You know they’re good for you. You may even know which foods contain them. But what are antioxidants and why are they so important?
We offers a brief guide to this crucial component of nutrition so that you can be better informed to make good healthy eating choices.
As your body breaks down food, a series of complex chemical reactions takes place, including what is called oxidation. As part of the oxidation process, free radicals are produced, which can start chain reactions that damage your body’s cells. Free radicals can also enter your body through environmental exposure to things such as tobacco smoke and radiation. Antioxidants are molecules capable of stopping free radicals from causing these chain reactions and protecting your body’s cells from the harm that comes from them.
Where to Look
There are many antioxidants capable of protecting your body from free radicals and many more places to find them. Some of the most commonly known are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. These are all found in a variety of foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, but also in nuts, grains, and some meats, poultry, and fish.
Free radicals cannot be avoided completely; in fact, the oxidation reactions that your body produces as part of its natural processes are crucial for maintaining life. However, you can minimize your exposure to harmful environmental free radicals by not smoking and wearing sunscreen when you spend time outside. Including a variety of antioxidant rich foods as part of a well-balanced diet is the best way to protect your cells from unwanted exposure to free radicals.