Antioxidants are a crucial factor in maintaining good health. They are essentially molecules that prevent the oxidation of other molecules; they manage the levels of free radicals present in the body and prevent them from causing serious cellular harm.
Antioxidants help the aging process by combating free radicals; however, it is a common mistake to think that consuming a small amount of antioxidants will provide adequate protection. There are so many pollutants invading the body in modern times that we need a substantial amount of assistance to prevent them from damaging us.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals (in other words ‘reactive metabolites’) are a natural by-product of metabolism and the production of energy; your body responds to toxins such as chemicals, radiation, cigarette smoke, and excessive sunlight. Free radicals are also produced due to exercise and the presence of inflammation.
Free radical molecules have missing electrons and as a result they are not complete. They attack other molecules to replace the missing electrons, stealing them from your body’s proteins; this process causes what is known as an ‘oxidative reaction’. Oxidation is damaging to the tissues and happens due to the excessive oxygen present. Cellular structure and DNA are damaged, and the molecules cause this by becoming free radicals themselves as they steal electrons from each other. Eventually the cell membranes succumb to the oxidative damage and start to disintegrate and die.
Without an adequate antioxidant supply in your body, free radicals take over, reducing function of your cells and leading to aging and disease.
How do antioxidants prevent this process?
Antioxidants work by donating electrons, thus halting the reaction of free radicals in the body. Antioxidants are a natural defense for your cells against them.
With the right intake of nutrition, antioxidants can halt the acceleration of the oxidative stress contributing to the aging process, caused by pollutants. As you get older, the amount of natural antioxidants present reduces, so it can be helpful to increase your intake through diet and supplements.
They repair damaged molecules, which is crucial for your DNA. Free radicals damage and disrupt the duplication of DNA and are linked a wide range of diseases. Antioxidants can protect it from attacks by free radicals. They are also ‘chelating’ which means they remove excess heavy metals from the body through the urine, and what's more; they kill cancerous cells.
There are many kinds of antioxidants
Your body can produce some antioxidants of its own, such as Glutathione (the ‘master antioxidant’) that helps all the other antioxidants you consume to work better. Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) and CoQ10 (Ubiquinone) are also present naturally and utilized by all of your cells, but as you get older, your body finds it harder to convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol, so supplementation can help.
Some antioxidants aren’t produced by your body, but can be found in foods or supplemented:
Astaxanthin – Astaxanthin is a powerful marine carotenoid produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, which is excellent at scavenging free radicals and can cross the blood brain barrier. It is 65 times as powerful as vitamin C.
Resveratrol from grapes, vegetables, cocoa, and red wine can cross the blood-brain barrier so is much more effective than many other types of antioxidant. It is a powerful tool for combating aging.
Vitamin C is one of the most famous antioxidants because of its huge range of benefits. It is also essential for collagen production. You can get vitamin C from raw, organic vegetables and fruits, and from vitamin C supplements made using liposomal technology for bioavailability, such as Lypo-Spheric vitamin C.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant vitamin.
Antioxidant Food Sources
For optimum nutrition, a balanced diet of unprocessed foods is the best source of antioxidants. You can get many of them from fresh, organic, raw vegetables and sprouts (pea and sunflower sprouts have the highest-quality protein). Many vegetables, especially the green, leafy ones, are loaded with antioxidants.
Juicing vegetables and fruit is excellent for nutrient absorption, and be sure to eat the pulp, which contains even more nutrients than the juice.
Fresh fruits and berries are another great antioxidant source: cranberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are the best antioxidant fruits. Berries contain vitamin C, carotenes and carotenoids, as well as nutrients such as potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium. However, you should consume fruits in moderation, as fructose can be detrimental in large amounts.
Fresh herbs and spices contain many antioxidants and they are anti-carcinogenic. Try ground cloves and cinnamon, as well as turmeric, oregano, garlic and ginger. It is best to avoid the powdered options as they have less health benefits.
Organic and raw nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans are highly antioxidant, plus they can boost your heart health. Peanuts are best avoided (due to pesticides and carcinogenic mold).
Organic, loose leaf green teas such as matcha or tulsi teas are great too. Remember that not all green teas are good; some processed green tea brands can contain very few antioxidants and some tea bags are contaminated with fluoride or contain hazardous plastics.
Diet is crucial for optimum antioxidant intake
pH Health insist that it is very important to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, as poor habits in these areas encourage free radicals and cause a lot of damage.
Reduce your sugar (including fructose) and grains intake: free radicals from sugar can cause liver inflammation, and grains convert into sugar, so removing them from your diet will mean you need less of an antioxidant intake and boost the function of the ones already present.
Exercising and managing your stress levels are also good ways to reduce inflammation and low immunity caused by free radicals. It goes without saying that smoking is a bad idea, as it forms free radicals and ages you. It is also important to get plenty of sleep (6-8 hours per night is thought to be sufficient).
Aside from promoting healthy diet and lifestyle, pH Health provide a range of antioxidant supplements for those that don’t have the time or inclination to facilitate an organised diet. Feel free to talk to us any time about our products and how they can help you to boost your health permanently!