What Are Antioxidants and What Do They Do for You?

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are a buzzing term often used in discussions of the most healthy foods.

It’s believed that the higher the antioxidants, the healthier the food is.

This also explains why foods like berries and green tea are highly regarded and recommended.

What’s common among those foods is that they are all high in antioxidants.

Antioxidants are essential for one’s health. But they are also known for their anti-aging properties. They help you stay ageless and wrinkle-free with their free-radical fighting abilities.

No wonder, we are all encouraged to eat as much as those high antioxidant foods.

While their benefits are pretty well known nowadays, how they actually help you with your youth and health is not.

Despite how common antioxidants have become, still very few truly understand what they are.

In this article, I’ll explain what antioxidants are and what they do for your body and health.

Read on to find everything you need to know about antioxidants.

So let’s get to it.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are chemicals that protect your body’s cells against free radicals.

Free radicals when accumulated and oxidized can pose many health risks. 

Heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancer are just to name a few. 

Your body produces antioxidants as its own defense mechanism to neutralize free radicals. 

But antioxidants can also be found in plant-based foods such as fruits and veggies. They come with a collection of vitamins, minerals with antioxidant properties. 

Antioxidants prevent or delay cell damage in the body caused by free radicals by neutralizing them. 

What Do Antioxidants Do?

What do antioxidants do

In short, antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage caused by oxidation.

Let’s pose a second. Realize that there are two relevant parts to this: Oxidants and antioxidants

  • Oxidants = free radicals, damage cells in our bodies.
  • Antioxidants = prevent and repair cells in our bodies.

Simply put antioxidants function as a defense system in your body, helping to protect or prevent cell damage caused by harmful molecules called —free radicals. 

What Are Free Radicals?

What are free radicals

Free radicals are a natural by-product of our many bodily functions (3).
 
We all know that we need oxygen to live. 

In the body, oxygen is vital for the chemical reactions that keep us alive and healthy.

But these reactions also produce free radicals. A highly unstable molecule with unpaired electrons.

Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down foods for use or storage.

But they are also produced when we expose to tobacco smoke, radiation, and air pollution. 

These unstable molecules make their way through our bodies, scavenging cells to try to snatch missing pieces—electrons. They form other molecules, damaging those molecules in the process. 

Unchecked free radicals—have been linked to all sorts of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease.

Although free radicals have a well-deserved reputation for causing cellular damage, they can also be helpful, too. 

“Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, MD”, explained—When our immune system cells muster to fight intruders, the oxygen they use spins off an army of free radicals that destroys viruses, bacteria, and damaged body cells in an oxidative burst (4). 

Antioxidants act as bounty hunters thus helping to keep these free radicals in check.

A powerful antioxidant such as Vitamin C found in oranges and kale has been shown to have a positive effect that can help disarm the free radicals. 

Antioxidants are believed to fight the formation of free radicals and may help prevent the cells damaged that comes from oxidation.

Benefits of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are your defense system against free radicals.

Our body is exposed to all sorts of toxins internally and externally. Air pollution, radiation, and sunlight can cause a build-up of free radicals as well as our toxins inside the body.

When those free radicals get oxidized, they can cause a number of health risks and harm to your body.

They are shown to increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. They also pose risk to your brain health as well as your eyes and skin.

What defends our bodies from all those harms is antioxidants.

Antioxidants help balance free radicals and keep them from damaging cells. They also help reverse some of that damage and build stronger immunity.

While our bodies are equipped with their own, we can get them from plant sources.

And a diet rich in those antioxidants is proven to help us reap many health benefits.

They help neutralize and fend off free radicals to start with. They also help lower bad cholesterol such as LDL, lowering your risk of heart disease.

Best Antioxidant Foods

This list of fruits of veggies includes a wide range of minerals and vitamins—including the grandfather of the traditional antioxidants, vitamin C and many others. 

Aim at getting 5 to 9 servings per day to take advantage of the antioxidants found in various produce. 

These items below are the most antioxidant-packed foods to add to your diet for good health and disease prevention. Data source: WebMD

Top 20 High Antioxidant Foods Table

RANK FOOD ITEM SERVING SIZE TOTAL ANTIOXIDANT  CAPACITY PER SERVING
1 Small Red Bean (dried) 1/2 Cup 13,727
2 Wild Blueberry 1 Cup 13,427
3 Red Kidney Bean (Dried) 1/2 Cup 13,259
4 Pinto Bean 1/2 Cup 11,864
5 Blueberry (Cultivated) 1 Cup 9,019
6 Cranberry 1 Cup (Whole) 8,983
7 Artichoke (Cooked) 1 Cup (Hearts) 7,904
8 Blackberry 1 Cup 7,701
9 Prune 1/2 Cup 7,291
10 Raspberry 1 Cup 6,058
11 Strawberry 1 Cup 5,938
12 Red Apple 1 Whole 5,900
13 Granny Smith Apple 1 Whole 5,381
14 Pecan Nut 1 Ounce 5,095
15 Sweet Cherry 1 Cup 4, 873
16 Black Plum 1 Whole 4,844
17 Russet Potato (Cooked) 1 Whole 4, 649
18 Black Bean (Dried) 1/2 Cup 4,181
19 Plum 1 Whole 4,118
20 Gala Apple 1 Whole 3,903

Final Word

There you have it!

We just went over what antioxidants are and why they are important. 

To recap, antioxidants are nothing but a collective group of minerals and vitamins found mainly in plant-based foods that keep our bodies healthy. And they do that by fighting against free radicals —oxidants.

The list of foods above is full of them, helping us get a load of antioxidants. That’s basically the reason why they are often referred to like healthy foods and foods that support our health. 

Did this article help answer your questions about antioxidants?

Leave me a comment below or any questions you have about antioxidants. 

Misato Alexandre

Co-Founder

After making healthy living a priority, Misato lost over 20 lbs in less than 90 days. Instead of weight loss being a dreading experience, living the lifestyle of health and fitness granted her more happiness and joy than ever before. She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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