Antioxidants are popping up in everything, from enriched beverages to your under-eye serum. If you’re happily taking in all of these antioxidants, but you have no idea why, you’re not alone.
Recently, antioxidants have been thrust at me from all directions. At the office our fridge is stocked with Bai, an all-natural, antioxidant infused drink. I noticed that my night cream boasts that it’s “antioxidant-rich” on the label. And my nutritionist determined I could use more antioxidants in my diet.
Maybe the last one wasn’t a sign from the universe and more a result of my late-nights-in-the-office-skipping-dinner-and-eating-cheerios diet.
Starting from the bottom up, I wanted to learn the basics. Strictly speaking, an antioxidant is “a substance ( such as beta-carotene or vitamin C) that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides or free radicals.” Got that? Me neither.
Let’s break it down a little more. Toxins in the environment and your body weaken molecules in your cells, causing them to lose an electron. This molecule that’s missing an electron is called a free radical or an oxidant. These free radicals try to find another electron to replace their lost one, causing a domino effect that damages cells.
Free radicals can cause damage just about anywhere – your blood vessels, your eyes and even your skin. According to some smart researchers at Stanford, some items that introduce toxins to your body include fried foods, alcohol, tobacco smoke, pesticides and air pollutants. Even your own body produces a stress hormone cortisol that can set this destructive process in motion. That’s some scary shit, right?
Before you swear off everything, move to the mountains for crisp air and only study zen yoga, let’s talk about the antioxidant. Antioxidants help keep these free radicals in check. They have one mission and that is to prevent and/or stop all the damage that free radicals are doing. The science behind it, easy – they donate the electron the free radicals are so desperately seeking, making them stable so that it doesn’t harm other cells.
Oh wait, it gets better. Sure, blueberries are famous for having a high antioxidant count, but guess what else does. Dark chocolate and red wine (the jury is out on red wine’s effectiveness, but we’ll take it). Actually, diving further into it, the majority of plant-based foods contain some sort of antioxidant properties. Check out this helpful list for the top 10 high antioxidant foods.
Like most diet changes, you don’t have to be extreme about your antioxidant intake. If you can’t stand berries or items on the list, you can always turn to supplements (consult your doc first). Just be sure to make a little more effort to eat antioxidant-rich foods in order to combat the free radical punks trying to take down your cells.