What are Antioxidants’ Benefits?

April 17, 2017
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Spend any time poking around health sites—or health stores—and you can’t help but be inundated by the tales of antioxidants. Just about every product that claims health benefits adds antioxidants to their list of pluses. But they can be a bit light on the details of how antioxidants really work in the body. And there’s a reason for that—because not all antioxidants carry the same power and benefits.

That’s why, today, I want to give you a tour of what antioxidants truly do. Why they are essential for your health, and for a youthful appearance. Exactly what antioxidants combat in your body. All the questions that go unanswered by the majority of the health media. But, more importantly, I’m also going to reveal the best possible source of the most powerful antioxidants around. So sit back—today, you’re going to learn a lot. But, going forward, you’re going to know exactly which claims are believable, and which are touting “label dressing”.

The Wrong Kind Of Radical

If you have ever heard anyone talk at length about antioxidants, you’ve probably heard the phrase “free radical”.

But let’s spend a little more time here. In fact, I’m going to take you back to middle school chemistry class.

You see, free radicals are a form of oxygen. They are a result of natural chemical reactions in your body—eating, breathing, and exercising all produce free radicals.

That requires some explanation.

Free radicals are really an oxygen molecule that’s been split up into single atoms. And those single atoms have unpaired electrons.

Here’s where your chemistry class comes into play. Remember—any unpaired electron is going to search for another electron to make its mate. It’s like a super-powerful magnet, on an atomic scale.

What usually happens is that free radical steals an electron from another molecule…which creates a new free radical! It’s a domino effect that can cascade throughout every cell in your body.

And when a free radical steals an electron from your DNA molecules, the process can lead to all sorts of nasty things. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It can damage the cell membrane, letting dangerous pathogens in. It can cause cells to clog your arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. It can damage and recode DNA—leading to tumors and cancer.

Some believe that, what we call the process of aging, and the gradual degradation of health that comes with it, is actually unchecked free radical damage.

And, while free radicals (and aging) are a natural part of the processes of life, there are plenty of things we do that introduce extra free radicals into the system.

Eating fried foods. Drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. Eating hot dogs or other processed meats. Breathing in pollution. Excessive sun exposure. All of this can give your body an extra dose of free radical damage.

And, as you can see, that’s not something you really want.

How to Fight the Free Radicals

Luckily, nature has a cure ready-made.

When it comes to free radicals, the way to stop them in their tracks is with antioxidants.

Antioxidants are a special class of molecules. They come in plenty of flavors, but they all share one important trait: Antioxidants can give away an electron without becoming unstable. They neutralize free radicals without creating more.

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Basically, antioxidants can stop the domino effect that free radicals cause. They let the unpaired electron of a free radical grab a mate, but then don’t need to find a new one themselves.

That’s why antioxidants are so powerful. They can literally stop the damage done by free radicals.

That means reducing the risk of diseases like heart diseases and cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

It also means that antioxidants can combat aging—and it’s especially noticeable in the appearance of your skin.

When you reduce the damage done by free radicals, you can literally see the difference.

Your body produces some antioxidants itself. However, it’s rarely enough.

If I have a patient complaining of general fatigue, and there’s no obvious cause, I always check antioxidant levels.

You can have you doctor do that with a NutrEval test or a Spectracell test—simple blood tests that check out your nutrient levels. Both are covered by most forms of health insurance—and they do a great job of looking for antioxidants.

If you’re low—and nearly everyone is—there are some things you can do to boost your levels.

The Best Sources of Antioxidants

The most common source of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. Most are very high in these chemical heroes and will provide you plenty of protection.

However—especially in the modern world—simply eating a high-veggie diet often isn’t enough. And some fruits and veggies are higher in antioxidants than others.

Greens are a great way to boost your antioxidant levels. Many grasses are high in antioxidants, and they’re an easy way to add health to everything. If leafy greens aren’t your thing, there are any number of greens powders which you can add to anything—from a salad to a fruit smoothie. Most powders have a distinctive flavor—if you don’t like the taste, there are other options.

Capros is found in the Indian Gooseberry, and it’s an exceptional antioxidant. Unlike most, it’s water-soluble, so you can mix it into anything liquid. It has a neutral taste, so you won’t even notice it. And, as an added benefit, capros does a great job of combating acidosis, as well. That means it helps your body maintain the proper level of acidity—something that is hard to do in our polluted world.

CoQ10—one of my favorite supplements—is another powerful antioxidant. Not only can it clean up free radicals, but it does an astounding job of fighting many other diseases. Most of the time, it does this by reducing inflammation—one of the more damaging chronic conditions in the body, which can lead to all sorts of maladies, including cancer.

And astaxanthin may be the most powerful antioxidant of all. It’s also one of the most noticeable, as astaxanthin has an especially beneficial effect on skin. Studies show that astaxanthin can reduce fine lines and wrinkles by 50% in as little as six weeks.

Whatever antioxidant helper you prefer, make sure you’re doing something. Free radicals may be unavoidable, but an overabundance of them is doing great damage to your body. Antioxidants are the only solution to this problem. In food form, they tend to come in delicious packages like berries. And, in supplement form, they are even more potent and powerful.

References

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