What Are Antioxidants? What Do They Do?


Antioxidants are a kind of compounds you hear about on a regular basis, however their features, advantages, and sources aren’t all the time clear. This text is for everybody who’s ever questioned “what are antioxidants, and am I getting sufficient of them?”

Let’s separate myths from info and take a look at which nutritional vitamins have antioxidant properties, which meals are excessive in antioxidants, and what the advantages are of antioxidants in your weight-reduction plan.


What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds are substances present in meals like vegetables and fruit which will stop or delay sure kinds of cell harm. “They’re the physique’s approach of preventing toxins and irritation,” says Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN, of Frugal Diet.

“Antioxidants may be consumed in sure recognized nutritional vitamins, like nutritional vitamins A, C and E,” explains Liz Wyosnick, MS, RDN, proprietor of the Seattle-based apply Equilibriyum. There are additionally phytochemicals (chemical compounds derived from crops) which have antioxidant-like properties, similar to selenium and zinc, and a few carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenols.

Most meals boast a distinctive mix and quantity of antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds — from apples to walnuts and goji berries to spinach — however don’t fear about particular ranges or combos, says Self: “Eat the rainbow to get a variety of antioxidants.”


How Do Antioxidants Work?

Antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds may also help stop or counteract the oxidative stress that outcomes from publicity to extremely reactive atoms referred to as free radicals. Wyosnick likens this stress to a gradual rusting within the physique.

Free radicals can kind as a product of regular metabolic processes within the physique, together with these related to train and the conversion of meals to power. They’ll additionally outcome from environmental elements like X-rays, smoking, and air pollution, explains Wyosnick.

By altering the chemical constructions of cells, free radicals have the potential to break them and their parts, together with cell proteins and DNA. Antioxidants function a balancing agent in an in any other case poisonous surroundings.


Ought to You Take Antioxidant Dietary supplements?

supplement pills in hand | antioxidants

Dietary supplements can function a useful backup in case you’re not getting sufficient antioxidants in your weight-reduction plan. After all, which will even be a sign that you have to make some adjustments to your grocery listing. That’s why Wyosnick recommends attempting to get your antioxidants primarily from complete meals.

“Spinach is a superb supply of antioxidants as a result of it’s spinach, not as a result of it incorporates carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin,” she explains. “Taking lutein by itself could not provide the identical advantages as a easy spinach salad… The meals all the time has the right mixture of compounds for assimilation and utilization by the physique.”

As for a way to decide on that meals, Wyosnick has some recommendation: “I encourage my purchasers to permit the season and their style preferences to information them when selecting meals sources of antioxidants, and to intention for numerous colours of those meals, as typically as attainable.”

When that’s not attainable, Shakeology incorporates antioxidant nutritional vitamins A, C, and E and superfoods like camu-camu and pomegranate, which have antioxidant properties, all in a kind issue that’s handy and versatile.


Antioxidant Advantages

Since oxidation is occurring on a regular basis within the physique, antioxidants have their work minimize out for them — and that’s additionally why antioxidants have broad advantages. However whereas antioxidants are present in meals like vegetables and fruit which might be recognized to assist promote regular operate and decrease well being dangers, it stays unclear whether or not it’s the antioxidants in these meals that present the advantages or one thing else.

Right here’s a take a look at recognized advantages linked particularly to antioxidants.
overhead shot of antioxidant foods in bowls

1. Scale back free radicals

“Basically, now we have free radicals in our our bodies from totally different exposures and stressors,” Self says. “They’re like a bunch of bulls in a china store — they run round wreaking havoc and inflicting harm within the physique. Antioxidants swoop in and neutralize them to allow them to’t harm our cells.”

2. Stimulate regular cell development

Cell demise, or apoptosis, is part of a cell’s life cycle, however free radicals could cause extra cells to die off quicker within the physique. Antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds not solely assist suppress cell demise, but additionally stimulate regular cell development in wholesome people.

3. Defend cells from untimely growing old

As we age, our cells regenerate extra slowly, however sure kinds of antioxidant-like compounds (similar to polyphenols) may also help offset or delay aging-related adjustments to cells.

4. Help immune operate

The immune system is “significantly delicate to oxidative stress,” in keeping with researchers. Antioxidants like nutritional vitamins A, C, and E, and beta-carotene, together with antioxidant-like compounds similar to selenium, copper, iron, and zinc, may also help hold the immune system robust.