Every day, we consume many types of foods. But if you go deeper and do a breakdown of the chemical composition of these foods, you will find out that each type of food is rich in various elements that are essential for your health. At the same time, some are harmful too. Some can be both, depending on your reaction to them.
One such chemical in your food is antioxidants. They can be found in some specific vegetables and fruits. Antioxidants are believed to have multiple health benefits. They can even help prevent cancer.
But they might have some bad effects too if you take them in large doses. The benefits and negative effects of antioxidants are still not quite clear. However, there are some proven benefits of this substance. This article will mainly focus on those benefits and the sources from where you can get antioxidants.
What are antioxidants?
As the name suggests, the substance is basically anti-oxygen. Antioxidants are the chemical components that stop reactions caused by oxygen. These types of reactions are called oxidation. Oxidation can be really harmful in real-time activities as it causes damage to many things that we use.
Oxidants are especially harmful to human bodies, as bad reactions inside our bodies could seriously harm us. Antioxidants in edible form perform the counter-reaction to fend off the damage from the oxidants. That is the function of antioxidants that we are exploring in this article.
Benefits and drawbacks of antioxidants
We’ve explained the basic chemical operation of an antioxidant. It is taken in the form of food in our bodies. The food sources for antioxidants are predominantly plants, such as the beta-carotene that is found in carrots and sweet potatoes; they are the main reason behind their orange color.
In our body, antioxidants play a big role in preventing a special group of chemicals called free radicals from deteriorating our cells. Free radicals are a chemical agent that is naturally produced by our body. An example would be when you do a workout, you produce lactic acid besides sweat and ripped muscles. Lactic acid is a common free radical.
Other sources that you can get free radicals from are cigarette smoke, rays from the sun, bad air, some specific types of medication, etc. The free radicals bind to our cells in a bad way that harms the DNA structure and the proteins inside our cells.
To some extent, that type of damage is recoverable. But at some point, free radicals start to damage cells en masse. It specifically targets fatty acids, DNA, and proteins and does all the damage through oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is caused by oxidation agents, a phenomenon we discussed earlier. Oxidation agents could cause various degrees of damage to the body. They could cause cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, or even heart problems. Antioxidants are clearly a solution to oxidative stress.
There aren’t clear indications, though, that taking excess antioxidants will help your body fight cancer. Researchers and experts have failed to create a clear link between antioxidants and cancer control. However, they believe that a proper diet usually provides plenty of antioxidants, and that helps with keeping diseases at the bay.
At the same time, there’s no proven result that it can help with inflammation either. If there are too many free radicals running inside your body, as a defense approach, your body may create antibodies, and that will create inflammation. Theoretically, antioxidants could help with the free radicals.
Antioxidants can sometimes be harmful. The beta-carotene type antioxidant that we mentioned earlier could cause damage to your body and ultimately cause cancer if you are a smoker.
Antioxidants are found abundantly in nature. First of all, our body naturally produces some antioxidants, such as glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid.
But your greatest source of antioxidants can be your food. Antioxidants can be found in various types of foods. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, minerals, and even the aforementioned beta-carotene all can be found in fruits and vegetables, and they all act as antioxidants.
Carbohydrates like Quinoa are a great source of antioxidants. It’s rich in mineral components that carry antioxidant properties. Brown sugar, too, could be an important carbohydrate source of antioxidants.
You would probably find it hard to believe, but even water could be an important source of antioxidants. In particular, ionized waters are a proven source of antioxidants. Alkaline ionized water contains particles rich in antioxidant materials.
Scientists have found that nearly 3100 sources of food contain some form of antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables or mainly plant-based food items are the most common source of antioxidants. They contain about 5 to 33 times more antioxidants than protein-rich items, such as meat.
Another pretty obvious source of antioxidants is supplements like Tongkat Ali. These supplements are widely available and provide way more amount than the natural sources of antioxidants.
Yet, the specialists do not recommend using these supplements. Research has shown that taking antioxidant supplements does not decrease the probability of cardiovascular disease nor does it help in preventing cancer. In fact, studies have shown that natural sources of antioxidants are actually more effective than supplements.
The reason for this is the benefits of antioxidants are almost indistinguishable from the nutrients they are sourced from. Basic food intake ensures enough antioxidant consumption which means taking antioxidants in the form of supplements is not that necessary. As a matter of fact, taking antioxidants in excess amounts could cause you some serious problems that we already discussed in this article.
Antioxidants are an ambiguous biochemical for our bodies. Discovering their full functions would still require some research. But for now, we can say these substances are pretty important for human health and their proper intake could result in better health for all of us.