What are Anti-Oxidants and Why Do I Need Them?
You may have heard a lot about antioxidants in conjunction with good health and avoiding diseases. These powerful substances, which mostly come from the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat, prohibit (and in some cases even prevent), the oxidation (see below) of other molecules in the body creating free-radicals. The benefits of antioxidants are very important to good health because if free-radicals are left unchallenged, they can cause a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases. What does this really mean?
Oxidation/Oxidative Stress & Free Radicals
The two terms heard when discussing antioxidants are oxidation/oxidative stress and free radicals. What do they mean? When molecules in the body oxidize, they can create bad cellular byproducts called free-radicals. It is very normal to have these free-radicals in the body, but in excess, they can wreak havoc on our cellular structures. If our cells are weak, it is natural that our organs, tissues, and skin of the body will likewise become weakened. Oxidative stress is the total burden placed on the body and its organs by the constant production of free-radicals in the normal course of metabolism plus whatever other toxic substances the environment exposes us to such as natural and artificial radiation, pollutants and toxins in the air, certain medications, bad foods, tobacco smoke, etc.
So what are free-radicals? In layman’s terms, free-radicals are bullies that start pushing everybody around and encourage nice cells to become bullies as well. Free-radicals create a destructive process in our cells, causing the molecules within the cells to become unstable. They may even be a big player in the formation of cancerous cells by a “chain-reaction” effect, causing other cells to become damaged. Because of the inherent instability of free-radicals, they try to attack other healthy cells to get stable themselves. This can essentially result in an imbalance between the production of free-radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants. In order to maintain the balance, a continual supply of external sources of antioxidants is necessary in order to obtain the maximum benefits. Once an antioxidant finds its way into the body, mostly through the foods we eat, it slows down or even prevents, the oxidation of other molecules.
How to Get More Anti-Oxidants
The simplest and most effective way to expose yourself to more antioxidants is through your diet. By incorporating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day into your diet, you may be helping your body reduce its chances of heart disease, neurological diseases, cancer, and lowered immunity. Increasing one’s antioxidant intake is essential for optimum health, especially in today’s polluted world. Because most of us do not eat enough servings per day of organic fruits and vegetables, the only other option is to take a good antioxidant supplement. Some common ones that you may have heard of are beta-carotene (carrots) for eye problems, lycopene (tomatoes) for prostate problems, astaxanthin (salmon) for the immune system, etc. These are more disease or organ-specific antioxidant supplements.
At Calla Slimspa in Orlando, our weight loss patients supplement their diet with Green Tea Capsules to help them get their daily dose of antioxidants. Green Tea capsules provide you with potent general antioxidant activity, are well tolerated, and should be added when you are not able to get inadequate servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Remember, a good case can be made for the notion that health depends on a balance between oxidative stress and antioxidant defenses.