What are antioxidants?
An antioxidant is a cell protector. As our bodies use oxygen, a by-product is produced that is potentially damaging to our cells. The by-product, called a free radical, is an unstable compound missing an electron. The free radical attacks our cells in order to regain its lost electron. Antioxidants protect our cells from this attack, by blocking the free radical.
The real danger of free radicals is that they can create a domino effect in our bodies. A free radical that steals an electron from a healthy cell damages that cell which, in turn, tries to steal an electron from another healthy cell, and so on. This can cause damage to our DNA or cell membrane, and cause the cell to function poorly, or even die. Free radicals are thought to contribute to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other diseases that we often associate with growing old.
Normally, our body can handle free radicals, but under some conditions—when antioxidants aren't present, or when we're exposed to environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, and radiation—free radicals can overwhelm our bodies, making us quite sick. As we get older, the potential damage of free radicals increases, and so it becomes even more important to be sure we have a good supply of antioxidants in our body.
How do antioxidants work?
Antioxidants act like a defense system against free radicals. Antioxidants bind with the free radicals, and provide them with their missing electron, thus neutralizing the effect of the free radicals in our body. Because the chemical balance has been restored to the free radical, it will no longer attack our healthy cells. Antioxidants don't become free radicals themselves because they are stable with or without the electron.
How can I get more antioxidants?
Good sources of antioxidants include fruits and vegetables. But, if you're on a restricted diet, or you just can't eat the USDA's recommended 5 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, dietary supplements can be an excellent source of antioxidants.
Antioxidants come in a variety of forms and include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, the Carotenoids, Flavonoids, and Selenium. Check the label of your vitamin supplement to ensure you're getting all the antioxidants your body requires for good health.
Vitamin B 6
Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B 17
Minerals: An Overview