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Why do we need antioxidants? We know that they are good for us, but why do we need them? Why are they so crucial to help with preventing chronic disease and the ageing process? We use the term a lot, but do we understand what it actually means and its implications for health? Let’s take a look…
An antioxidant is basically something that reverses or stops ‘oxidation’. But what exactly is oxidation?
In scientific terms, oxidation is the gain of oxygen by a substance. Imagine a freshly cut apple or avocado turning brown, a nail becoming rusty or a copper statue turning green. These are examples of everyday oxidation. In most instances the process of oxidation causes damage or destruction.
Oxidation creates free radicals, boisterous molecules that have been freed from their usual home to go and cause damage and destruction in the body. These free radicals are unstable and need to be ‘caught’ before they can cause more damage to other healthy functioning cells. These free radicals negatively affect cell membrane health, proteins, and DNA expression which can trigger a number of human diseases. Antioxidants are our natural protectors.
Antioxidants are abundant in nature, because plants contain antioxidants to protect themselves too. The nutritional content of natural whole foods is just what our body needs to negate the effects of our own biochemical processes. However we sometimes struggle to obtain sufficient antioxidants in the modern world due to a nutritionally deficient society – due to urbanization, overuse of agricultural land, intensive farming, stress-fueled society and easy access to processed foods, we are unable to provide our body with the essential nutrition required to defuse this free radical activity.
Not only do free radicals naturally occur in the body, we can also absorb them from our environment. This can be from consumption burnt or fried foods or exposure to chemicals as pesticides in the home, cosmetic and domestic products and various other sources through our environment.
Antioxidants are therefore vital for our health as they are implicated in healthy ageing, reducing the virulence of chronic disease, improving cognition and mental health. Ultimately they work to maintain and improve general health and wellbeing.
So what can we do to protect ourselves?
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