First, if you want to know the answer to, What are Antioxidants, let's take this word apart. We all know that “anti” means “against”. With antioxidants, this is a good thing! Our bodies do not want harmful oxidants, or free radicals, wandering around in them. So antioxidants work against the harmful oxidants.
You may have heard the term, “oxidize” before, in either chemistry or actually seeing how cars or lawn edging, made of iron, rusts. This is simply oxidation, so you can see it is not a great thing to happen. Oxidation, or Oxidative Stress, occurs in your body when free radicals are not neutralized. This results in allowing chronic diseases to occur, such as Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes etc. and also the dreaded aging process!
However, you can reverse this process, or minimize it by consuming antioxidants in the foods you eat and by using supplements that contain these wonder nutrients.
The picture on the left is a healthy red blood cell.
On the right is a red blood cell with damage from free radicals.
The role of antioxidants and free radicals is mind-boggling, but keep in mind, the antioxidants can win!
Read more to answer the question of, "What are antioxidants!"
If you are looking for the "antioxidant definition", Lyle MacWilliam, who is a leading author, educator, and biochemist and serves as a scientific consultant and public advocate for the natural healthcare industry, describes it well. He answers the question of "what are antioxidants" quite well!
He describes antioxidants as those that stop free radicals dead in their tracks before they can cause structural damage to the cell. Antioxidants take the unpaired electron from the free radical and render it harmless. The antioxidant is then changed chemically. However, some of these are then regenerated by other antioxidants, so this is a reason that consuming different types of antioxidants is extremely important. Other antioxidants that are not regenerated may simply be excreted from the body or are turned into other compounds that are not dangerous to your body (MacWilliam, 2007).
Most antioxidants are found in Vitamins A, C, E, and CoQ10, which is
actually termed vitamin-like Coenzyme Q10. Carotenoids, that include
betacarotene, also fit into this category as well as many flavonoids.
It has been reported that the youth of today may not be gaining the same ground as other generations, pertaining to longevity of life. Antioxidants do not play a big role in many of their lives as they have in a more natural state in the Baby Boomer generation.
The Baby Boomer generation may be adding years to their lives, but be wary because if this generation takes after our current seniors, Chronic, or Degenerative Disease will play a huge roll in the "golden years.
You may be surprised to find out the role that inflammation plays in many diseases. I remember when my husband and I received the results from our Functional Tests. He was disappointed that the results of his ADMA (asymmetric dimethylarginine, which is a measure of inflammation) was normal! He has such bad knees that he figured this test wold show that inflammation and that the uniquely prescribed supplements, that we purchase, would take care of this! However, Systemic Inflammation is more complicated than that of just those achy joints because it attacks all types of cell functions and tissues.
Inflammation has been a defense for our bodies for millions of years. It protects us from pathogens. However, as we age, this system begins to turn against us and reek havoc within our bodies. What is so dangerous is that it is silent and we don't know the damage until all of the sudden, we have Diseases caused by Inflammation such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases etc. In fact, by identifying the level of C-reactive protein (CRP) in oneself, may be the biggest predictor of cardiovascular disease associated with inflammation. Remember that cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death in the US. So it would be wise to base your eating habits on an Anti-Inflammation Diet!
There are many antioxidant rich foods. Although there is a lot of literature out there suggesting that you can't consume all of the needed amounts of antioxidants in the food you eat, it is still the place to start! Consuming foods high in antioxidant can help you slow the aging process and prevent many types of chronic diseases.
This is not a fad and will only become more known by those interested in their health and quality of life. Antioxidant Foods, or natural antioxidants, are what you need to be concentrating on to ensure quality of life and protect yourself from cancers, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and to keep your youthful look. It is never too early, nor too late, to improve your chances of optimum health. So, make sure you know your foods and the answer to, What are Antioxidants!
MacWilliam, l. (2007). Nutrisearch comparative guide to nutritional supplements. Vernon, Canada: Northern Dimension Publishing.