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What Are Antioxidants, and Why Do We Need Them?

December 20, 2018

what-are-antioxidantsAntioxidants generate a great deal of interest because of their tremendous health benefits. These substances are naturally found in a wide range of foods. They're known to be effective in preventing and controlling many chronic diseases. But if you're wondering, 'What are antioxidants?', you're probably also wondering why we need them.

So, What Are Antioxidants?

what-are-antioxidants-fruits-vegetables If you ask your doctor or dietitian what antioxidants are, they'll probably start talking about cells called free radicals. Many health problems you may experience are caused by free radical damage.

Free radicals are molecules naturally produced by your body when it's turning food into energy. Under normal circumstances, the body has the necessary mechanisms to control the activities of molecules. However, certain factors can lead to overproduction of free radicals., including:

Excess free radicals will attack the body, causing damage to important cellular molecules. Such damage can increase the risk of health problems like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cataract formation and premature aging.

Antioxidants are very important because they can prevent free radicals from damaging the cells and tissues in our bodies. They help make us less susceptible to diseases and improve our overall health.

What Are Antioxidant Supplements?

If you're trying to get more antioxidants into your diet, antioxidant supplements may be an option. But the National Institutes of Health warns that some antioxidant supplements in high doses may be linked to health risks in some cases. For instance, beta carotene is an antioxidant supplement that may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. High doses of the antioxidant supplement Vitamin E may increase the risks of prostate cancer and one type of stroke.

What Are Antioxidant Food Sources?

When answering the question, 'What are antioxidants?', your doctor could simply answer: fruits and vegetables. There is good evidence that eating a diet that includes plenty of vegetables and fruits is healthy.

The key is finding different sources of antioxidants because antioxidant compounds protect different parts of the body.  Eat as wide a range of antioxidant-rich foods as you can. This means eating fruits and vegetables of different types and colors. Other sources of antioxidants include:

  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Nuts

Eating and drinking these types of foods can provide many health benefits. It can set off a chain reaction of good health for you and protect you against diseases like:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

An easy way to start working more healthy foods into your diet is by downloading our "Heart-Healthy Cookbooks". You'll find ideas for everything from appetizers to desserts you and your family will love.  

Free Downloads: Heart Healthy Cookbooks