Antioxidants, as the prefix “anti” implies, fight or correct oxidants. But what does that mean?
Oxygen is crucial to all life. However, it can produce free radicals called oxidants. These can be found in the atmosphere, and in fact, levels have increased drastically over the years due to pollution.
There are also oxidants in the body. A person’s levels of oxidants can increase due to stress, improper diet, alcohol consumption and smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke. These oxidants cause the cells in the body to break down, similar to how metal oxidizes into rust. The body then becomes full of free radicals that can turn against the other cells in the body.
Oxidants have been linked to cancer and breakdown of the immune system, heart disease, cataracts, as well as signs of aging (wrinkles, dark spots, uneven skin tone, etc). Recent research has also linked oxidants to chronic disorders such as arthritis.
To counter oxidants it is important to take antioxidants which bind the free radicals and make them less dangerous. Antioxidants can also heal damaged cells. The body can product antioxidants through enzymes like Superoxide Dismutase and Catalase (which break down the oxidants), and Glutathione (which binds with oxidants. Antioxidants can also be found in dark green and brightly colored vegetables. Unfortunately these antioxidants are sensitive to heat so it is best to eat these raw such as in salads. There are also antioxidant supplements. Many skincare products also contain antioxidants to help counter wrinkles and other signs of aging.