What do Antioxidants ~Actually~ Do?

The term “antioxidant” is a buzzword you’d typically hear associated with red wine or certain fruits. Antioxidants are in foods ranging from dark chocolate to soybeans to blueberries. Foods containing large antioxidants and vitamins are highly recommended to be essential parts of your diet. But besides being an extra benefit to having a wine night, what do antioxidants actually do in your body? 

 

The science-heavy explanation of what antioxidants do can be summarized by “neutralize free radicals.” Free radicals are molecules possessing a lone electron that can harm the body if not regulated. In summary, they’re dangers if left unattended by the body. Many cellular reactions and pathogens can create free radicals in the body as by products. The body produces natural antioxidants to regulate free radicals as well as utilizing free radicals in our body’s immune response. However, a diet rich in foods containing antioxidants supplements the body’s natural defenses against free radicals. A diet rich in antioxidants helps to maintain a robust immune system and prevent the development of several diseases. Unregulated levels of free radicals have been correlated to the development of several chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, macular degeneration, and certain forms of cancer. 

Many of the vitamins and minerals we seek when we consume fruits and vegetables have antioxidant properties. For example, Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant found in broccoli, kale, strawberries and several other pigmented vegetables. The primary antioxidant found in red wine is Resveratrol; it is also found in red grapes and dark berries. Other common dietary antioxidants include Vitamin E, Carotenoids, Polyphenols and several others. In general, dark colored berries, leafy greens, orange and red vegetables and whole grains are rich in antioxidants. With that said, next time you’re in the produce section, keep your antioxidants in mind! They’re not simply a marketing buzzword to trick you into eating your vegetables; they help your body defend itself against a host of molecular defenders.