What Are Antioxidants?
From skin care products to mock-tail elixirs, we hear about antioxidants every other day in our lives. Except, there is actually a ton of information and benefits to them that aren’t common knowledge. First things first, antioxidants are molecular compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is the chemical process in the body where substances gain oxygen and lose hydrogen causing a loss of electrons. This chemical reaction produces free radicals, which are the unstable atoms that can damage cells and cause illness.
What Do They Actually Do?
Antioxidants are the “free radical fighters” our body produces naturally. The body gains antioxidants from food and supplements. But what do antioxidants do? Antioxidants act as an electron donor to stabilize the otherwise unstable atoms. Except, they have no particular chemical structure, because every antioxidant is unique. Each one has its own chemical behavior and plays a different role in our body. In other words, one single antioxidant can’t do what all of them together could. Think of antioxidants as the molecular compound superheroes in our bodies. One on its own can fight the free radicals, but the whole group of heroes together can help defeat them.
Causes of Free Radicals
There are threats against our bodies every day, from viruses and lack of nutrients, to free radicals. Our bodies produce a reactive oxygen species (i.e free radicals) as a reaction to our food being turned into energy, exercising, and even breathing. Free radicals aren’t initially bad for our health. Except, at high levels, free radicals become harmful to the body and begin to attack healthy cells. This can lead to a condition called oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. In fact, it has been researched that oxidative stress is a partial cause of many types of cancers, inflammatory conditions like arthritis, ischemic diseases (heart diseases and strokes), hypertension and preeclampsia, neurological disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy), and the acceleration of aging.
Furthermore, specific lifestyle choices lead to increased production of free radicals such as exposure to environmental pollution (cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemical solvents), alcohol intake, ways of cooking (oils, smoked meats, fats), certain drugs, and radiation.
Benefits of Antioxidants
Overall, a high level of free radicals damages your cells. Antioxidants protect those cells. Now, while that point may seem minute it plays a role in a bigger, healthier picture.
Maintaining a diet with high levels of antioxidants can help reduce the risk for many of the conditions and diseases mentioned previously (heart disease, certain cancers, etc.) In fact, all over the world, research continues about the protective state of antioxidants. Places such as The National Institute of Health, Institute of Clinical Science, National Cancer Institute, and American Heart Association have dedicated studies to discovering the power of antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect the skin by fighting free radicals and maintaining the health of existing cells. Along with protecting your skin, simultaneously, they reduce pigmentation and the production of wrinkles from UV damage. Research shows that antioxidants aid in the protection against ultraviolet (UV) damage. This research has contributed to the increased creation of many antioxidant-based skin serums.
Firstly, antioxidants increase your immune system, fight sun-damage, and protect cuticles to maintain hair strength. They increase blood circulation and nutrients throughout the body promoting hair growth.
In the aging process, research has shown that age-associated functional losses are due to the accumulation of oxidative damage produced by free radicals. Subsequently, while research is still going on, it is believed that antioxidants have a positive impact on the reduction of oxidative damage due to their ability to fight free radicals. Therefore, the effects of aging become curved.
Types of Antioxidants:
Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body naturally, because it is a water-soluble vitamin. So, we need to consume vitamin c through food or supplements every day. Vitamin c is needed for the growth and repair of tissue throughout the body.
Daily Recommended amount: 75-90mg for adults.
Found in: oranges, blackcurrants, kiwi, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, capsicum, brussel sprouts, kale, papaya, bell peppers, and strawberries
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally and synthetically. It is a radical scavenger, giving hydrogen atoms to free radicals to stabilize them.
Daily recommended amount: 15mg for adults
Found in: vegetable oils, boiled spinach, avocados, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin important for eyesight, immunity, and reproduction.
Daily recommended amount: 700-900 mcg
Found in: liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, and egg yolks
A plant pigment that converts to vitamin a. Beta-carotene contributes to better cognitive function.
Daily recommended amount: Included in vitamin a recommendation
Found in: pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, asparagus, spinach, peaches, and parsley
A carotenoid vitamin linked to beta-carotene and vitamin a. Known as the “eye vitamin”, Lutein helps prevent eye diseases.
Daily recommended amount: 6-12 mg
Found in: green, leafy vegetables like spinach and swiss chard, and corn
Another carotenoid vitamin, researched linked lycopene to potentially helping heart health and other cancers.
Daily recommended amount: 8-21 mg
Found in: tomatoes, pink grapefruit, oranges, squash, and watermelon
Selenium is actually a mineral found in soils, but has antioxidant properties. This antioxidant plays a key role in the bodies metabolism.
Daily recommended amount: 55 mcg
Found in: seafood, offal, brazil nuts, lean meat, and whole grains
Glutathione is made up of three amino acids, glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. This amino-acid based antioxidant is vital for preventing and optimizing cellular function.
Daily recommended amount: N/A (not enough research)
Found in: onions, garlic, avocados, asparagus, and watermelon
How To Up Your Intake:
Maintaining a healthy diet increase your daily intake of antioxidants. By just including a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack increases your bodies antioxidant levels naturally become higher and healthier. A little tip, if you are having trouble remembering which foods have which antioxidants then just try to bring some color to your plate. Brighter foods tend to have higher antioxidant levels.
It is important to seek out natural sources of antioxidants, but there are supplement options for many different antioxidants. Antioxidant supplements are concentrated forms of free-radical fighting antioxidants such as daily vitamins, powder formulas, and drip therapy . However, while supplements are beneficial to your intake of antioxidants, professionals recommend to not take them in high doses.
New (& Fun!) Antioxidant Products
Antioxidants now extend beyond your usual daily vitamins. In fact, they are now included in skin serums, anti-aging products, hair products, vitamin c drinks, smoothies, and moisturizers. For example, some of our favorites are the vegan Acure Brightening Vitamin C & Ferulic Acid Oil Free Serum which uplifts your skin, as well as the Kin Euphoric mock-tails. These mock-tails are made from adaptogens, nootropics, and botanics that give you a healthful restorative boost. The benefits of antioxidant products are worth taking a dive into.
So, In Short:
What do antioxidants do? They protect our bodies from illness caused by an imbalance of free radicals in our system. It is important to maintain a proper intake of antioxidants. Whether through a healthy diet, lifestyle changes, or supplements, it is needed in order to prevent diseases and oxidative stress. There are many different kinds of antioxidants with their own individual qualities, but they work best when combined all together. When it comes to antioxidants, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.