Antioxidants: Protecting Your Cells

Everyday our bodies work to combat infections, free radicals, and diseases that aim to damage our cells and attack our overall health. Our cells are constantly exposed to oxygen to support basic functions and health, however oxygen exposure also leads to a process called oxidation. Oxidation transforms our body’s chemicals into free radicals, which we’re also exposed to through environmental factors such as pollution, alcohol, and smoke. These free radicals threaten the health of cells throughout our body by causing a chain reaction of damage to DNA, body chemicals, and cells. Research has found that free radicals are linked to many diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and may also play a critical role in the aging process. To fight these free radicals, our body depends on antioxidants to protect, repair, and reverse free radical damage.

Some antioxidants are naturally produced by our bodies to fight free radicals created by normal bodily processes, however the majority of antioxidants must be consumed through a healthy, vitamin-rich diet or antioxidant supplementation. Fruits and vegetables are known to be rich sources of antioxidants that help to reduce the risk of disease and improve overall health. Some specific antioxidant-rich nutrients present in many fruits and veggies include vitamins C, A, E, and carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein.

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most well-known antioxidants and also offers a wide range of health benefits. Vitamin C helps to fight free radicals, protect your body from infection, and produce collagen. This vitamin is important for your skin, bones, and connective tissue. It is also critical in aiding healing processes and iron and folate absorption. Citrus, red and green peppers, and greens are good food sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that’s also beneficial for immune health, vision, and reproductive health. It also helps in the proper functioning of the lungs, kidneys, and organs. It’s found in many leafy greens, fish, and dairy products.

Vitamin E

One of vitamin E’s primary functions is as an antioxidant. It helps to protect the body from cell damage and works with other antioxidants to protect against chronic diseases. It’s critical for metabolic processes and immune health. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, leafy greens, and nuts.

Carotenoids

Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein are key players in reducing free-radical damage. Carotenoids are known to help prevent certain cancers and decrease the risk of muscular degeneration. These vitamins are specifically beneficial for eye health, heart disease, asthma, and more.

Antioxidant Supplements

There’s extensive research that suggests consuming antioxidant rich foods helps to combat disease. Many studies are exploring the effectiveness of antioxidant supplementation as another form of antioxidant intake, however the results have been mixed regarding the effectiveness and safety of supplements. Researchers suggest that a balanced diet of antioxidant-rich foods is more effective in boosting overall health than supplementation and that supplementation should never replace a healthy diet. Deficiencies in certain antioxidant nutrients would be a primary reason to choose an antioxidant supplement and should be discussed with a medical professional.

Increasing your intake of healthy antioxidant sources is helpful in fighting free radicals, but much of the free radical damage affecting our health can be avoided by making healthier lifestyle choices. While many free radicals are released through natural bodily processes, others are caused by activities such as smoking, consuming unhealthy fats, and drinking alcohol. Free radicals occur when toxins are broken down in the body, many of which can be avoided through healthier diets, reduced stress, and a lower exposure to pollutants.

If you’ve decided to make 2017 the year you improve your overall health, consider more than just exercise and healthy eating. Your overall lifestyle is a critical factor in the health of your mind and body. Additionally, when trying to improve your diet aim to choose a well-rounded selection of nutrient-rich foods that will source your body with all of the vitamin and minerals it requires for healthy living. If you find that you’re unable to provide your body with the proper amount of vitamins from diet alone, talk to your doctor about adding a vitamin or mineral supplement to your healthy living regimen.

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