What Are Antioxidants?
Have you wondered what are antioxidants, free radicals and oxidative stress? Find out how they can affect your body!
What are antioxidants, free radicals and oxidative stress?
Perhaps you have probably heard of these words before from somewhere or someone but do you exactly know what they can do to your body? Let’s find out!
Antioxidant: Antioxidants are substances that protect our cells or slow down damages caused by free radicals.
Free radicals: Free radicals are harmful molecules that are formed in the body as a response to exposure such as inflammation and environmental toxins like pollution, UV exposure and cigarette smoke. Free radicals can damage cells, accelerate aging as well as cause diseases.
Oxidative stress: When free radicals surpass the number of antioxidants, it can lead to oxidative stress. Prolonged oxidative stress increases the risks of negative health outcomes to the body that leads to various illnesses as well as premature aging.
We should ensure that the level of antioxidants is always higher than free radicals in our bodies. Lack of antioxidants in the body will cause harm to our body because that would allow the free radicals to attack our cells and weaken our immunity. A high level of free radicals could be linked to various illnesses including heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, immune deficiency, and more.
Managing and Preventing Oxidative Stress
Although free radicals are produced naturally in the body, our lifestyle can be the factor for free radicals to accelerate their production. Let’s look at how you can manage your lifestyle and practice them in your life to further prevent more oxidative damage in your body:
The source of antioxidants can be natural or artificial. The good news is they can be obtained and absorbed into the body through healthy diets. Eating five servings per day of various fruits and vegetables is the best way to provide your body with what it needs to produce antioxidants. It may sound like a lot per day, but you can also consider having them as snacks or blend them into juices, so you don’t have to force yourself to eat everything in one sitting.
We have also compiled a list of foods that are rich sources of antioxidants for you to consider incorporating into your diet.
Examples of best foods high in antioxidants include:
- citrus fruits
- dark leafy greens
- sweet potatoes
- dark chocolate
Other examples of dietary antioxidant sources to take:
- fish and nuts
- vitamin E
- vitamin C
- pine bark extract
- green tea
Although the majority of the antioxidants are found in plant-based foods that shouldn’t be your sole focus in your diet. Remember to incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains for an overall balanced diet. Alternatively, you may consider taking supplements such as Vitamin E and C as well as pine bark extract to reach your daily antioxidant quota.
Aside from that, try to avoid eating foods containing high sugar and fats as they can contribute to free radical production.
Other than practicing conscious eating, we can also make conscious efforts through our lifestyle to prevent or reduce oxidative stress:
- Plan an exercise routine
Plan a workout routine that is challenging enough to trigger an increase in your body’s antioxidant activity. However, not to the point that the surge of free radicals will overwhelm your system. Instead, your workout should be done at your fitness level on alternate days because you want to avoid creating more free radicals than antioxidants, thus creating an imbalance in the body.
- Don’t smoke or be exposed to smoke
Exposure to cigarette smoke will potentially stimulate free radicals to form in the body. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke as well. Constant exposure to them will lead to a persistent imbalance of free radicals in the body, which opens the opportunity for chronic diseases to develop.
- Be cautious with chemicals
Due to innovations and constructions, we are also constantly exposed to pollution, radiation exposure, cleaning chemicals, or even chemical exposure, such as pesticides used on food or in gardening. These exposures are harmful to our body as they would only accelerate free radicals production.
- Wear sunscreen
As you already know, we will get sunburn if we are exposed to the sun without any protection for a certain period. This is due to the high-intensity UVB rays being absorbed by the surface of the skin, causing immediate damage. Therefore, we have to apply sunscreen before leaving the house!
To avoid sunburn and free radicals to form, physical sunscreen is recommended as compared to chemical sunscreen. How physical sunscreen works is they sit on top of the skin and reflects the sun’s rays from being absorbed into the skin. This type of sunscreen is suitable for daily use and they tend to be less irritating and better suited for people with sensitive skin.
- Get plenty of sleep
We couldn’t stress this enough but getting ample sleep is very important to maintain balance in all of your body systems. When we get sufficient sleep, it allows the body to rest and rejuvenates to ensure optimum functioning in our brain, hormone production, antioxidants and free radical balance.
Essentially, antioxidants play a huge role in keeping our bodies healthy. It is impossible to completely avoid exposure to free radicals and oxidative stress in our daily life. However, we can try to minimise the effects of oxidative stress on our bodies through how we manage our lifestyle and keep the level of antioxidants and free radicals in our bodies well balanced.