Our bodies are complex machines that undergo various intricate chemical reactions in order to keep us alive and ticking.
A lot of these reactions involve the transfer of energy and the breakdown or build-up of organic material.
These activities are grouped as our metabolism.
A lot of these reactions result in oxidation or a reduction of chemicals from one form to multiple subforms by using oxygen as a catalyst.
This is why we breathe oxygen in the first place.
The results of these reactions often produce useful chemicals or release vital energy.
But in many cases, the byproducts can be just as harmful as others are helpful.
One such occurrence is the production of free radicals.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are unstable molecules that come to be as a result of metabolic activity.
They are also introduced externally through food and our environment.
Free radicals are known to damage cell membranes which ultimately can kill cells.
The accelerated destruction of cells leads to tissue degradation and eventually a decline in organ function.
This is known as oxidative stress.
To put it short, free radicals make you grow older faster by advancing the aging process which is characterized by an increased rate of cell death.
Free radicals have been linked to many diseases including cancer.
But fear not, because we have a defense at our disposal, it comes in the form of antioxidants.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that clean up and neutralize free radicals, either through direct interactions or as precursors or co-factors in the substances that deal with them head-on.
Antioxidants can be formed in the body or can be taken in through diet or supplementation.
What Are The Benefits?
Aside from getting rid of cell destroying free radicals, antioxidants often have a few other benefits.
Here’s a quick list of what antioxidants can do for you:
- Boost metabolic function
- Slow down the signs and effects of aging
- Reduce disease and cancer risk
- Assist in maintenance and repair of genetic material
So as you can see, antioxidants aren’t that bad for you at all. But let’s not stop at admiring their potential, lets actually look at what different types there are and where you can get them.
Top 5 Antioxidant Types And Their Sources
Flavonoids are actually a super classification of antioxidants. Many of the antioxidants we will discuss are subgroups of flavonoids.
That’s because under flavonoids you’ll get all the antioxidants that are planted pigment-based.
A good rule of thumb, if you’re looking for a sure source of antioxidants, is source plants with deep vibrant colorations and strong distinct flavors/aromas.
The likelihood of obtaining a healthy dose of flavonoids from such sources is pretty high.
You can take pretty colors and awesome flavors as nature’s way you labeling its natural medicines.
Carotene, or more specifically, beta-carotene is what gives certain fruits and vegetables that rich orange color.
They are, of course, a class of flavonoids.
Mangoes, carrots, pumpkins, and apricots are all abundant sources of beta-carotene.
What does this antioxidant actually do?
Well, this one is quite interesting. Beta carotene is actually a precursor to vitamin A, an essential nutrient.
Beta carotene is responsible for the health benefits associated with vitamin A such as improved eye health as it protects retinal cells from oxidative damage.
This class of antioxidants has a powerful effect throughout the body
They can be sourced from many foods including teas, cocoa, berries, and even red wine.
Catechins are reputed for their anti-aging qualities.
Green tea and its concentrated extracts such as matcha are good ways to get some catechins in your system.
Another flavonoid, this time the special color is red.
Found abundantly in tomatoes, lycopene has been shown to provide skin health benefits.
It does this by protecting the skin from sun damage. I guess we could say in order to avoid looking like a tomato, perhaps you should eat more of them.
Lycopene research also suggests protection from some forms of cancer but don’t quote us on that, studies in this area are still in their infancy.
Polyphenols have far-reaching health benefits.
These potent nutrients have been shown to aid in digestive, reproductive, cardiovascular and neurological health.
They also help with blood glucose management and weight loss.
Polyphenols can be sourced from foods such as olives, oregano, and thyme, typically in concentrated oil extracts.
We need antioxidants to maintain healthy function and a normal if not improved lifespan.
While antioxidants can be supplemented, sourcing them from whole foods is probably more beneficial owing to our natural systems being more accustomed to the organic configuration.
That isn’t to say supplemental antioxidants are bad, we just mean that getting them from real, whole food is so much better.