Nearly every health magazine or report contains some reference to antioxidants. It seems everyone has an antioxidant that is supposed to be the best for the body. However, before trying to decide which antioxidant to purchase, it helps to know how antioxidants work.
First one has to understand oxidation. Many diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease are thought to be the result of oxidation of one or many chemical compounds and the creation of radicals at the cellular levels.
One way to think of the oxidation process is to relate it to iron. When iron is exposed to oxygen over a period of time, it rusts. When the body burns oxygen in the process of creating energy, free radicals are formed. These free radicals are very reactive and can set off a series of negative events. Free radicals and by association oxygen, play a huge part in the aging process.
When these radicals are in the body, they may be part of chemical reactions, enzymes or even part of a DNA molecule. When the chemical makeup of anyone of these is changed, the result can be the loss of its normal function in the body, resulting in disease or infection.
How antioxidants work to fight this process is the health news that makes headlines on a constant basis. Antioxidants essentially act as a type of buffer, able to absorb the negative free radicals without becoming unstable in the process.
This process eliminates the degenerative properties of the free radicals and stops the reaction of the radicals. While free radicals accelerate the aging process through oxidation, antioxidants stop the reaction by buffering the free radicals.
Food and How Antioxidants Work
How antioxidants work to fight disease and how abundant they are in nature is important in fighting disease and in preventing disease. There are many antioxidants available in foods and others that can be purchased as supplements.
Vitamins A, C, E, Selenium, and Lycopene all have antioxidant properties and can be found in a healthy, well balanced diet.
Vitamin A can be found in dark green vegetables, liver, eggs, and dairy products. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, tomatoes and liver. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, peanuts, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and dark leafy vegetables. Selenium is in Brazil nuts, crab, lobster, onions and molasses, and Lycopene is found in tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and blood oranges.
Many people are able to get all of their antioxidant needs in their diet; however, some people may need to add a supplement to help their body fight free radicals. This is because some people have defective vitamin-cofactor binding sites that prevent their bodies from utilizing the vitamins properly.