You may have heard of free radicals but are unsure of what they actually are. And you may also have heard that antioxidants can help "mop up" free radicals in the body, but how? Well read on to learn more.
Free radicals are unstable atoms or molecules in the body that can cause damage to the cells of the body. An atom is unstable if it doesn't have enough electrons in it's outer orbit of electrons (i.e the valence shell of the atom) for the electrons to be paired.
This is where antioxidants come in to "save the day", or in the body's case, save it's cells from being damaged. An antioxidant can donate electrons to unstable atoms, enabling them to have an even number of electrons in their outer shell for pairing, and in so doing they become stable, and therefore will not be looking to "steal" an electron from another atom / molecule causing it to then become unstable, with more and more cellular damage being created from this continual process of atom instability.
So in a "nut shell", antioxidants are affective electron donors that help to reduce oxidative stress and cell damage within the body.
The body, being the remarkable thing it is, does have some ability to combat free radical damage within it's very own cells. The cells, particularly the cells of the liver and kidneys, (being such important detoxification pathways), have peroxisomes in them which contain enzymes, that with the assistance of another enzyme called catalase, manage to convert free radicals and other dangerous substances into water. However it is important to give your cells a helping hand by including plenty of antioxidant-rich foods into your diet. Many plant foods contain flavonoids which are good antioxidants.
Good antioxidant vitamins and minerals include vitamins A,C and E, and selenium. Some other affective substances that support antioxidant activity are Co-enzyme Q10, Resveratrol, turmeric, green tea, and the hormone melatonin.
So take good care of your body by ensuring that you are getting plenty of antioxidants to help mitigate free radical damage to the cells of your body, helping to reduce disease processes and slow the aging process.