What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body and protect your cells. But to understand why antioxidants are good for you, you first need to know about free radicals.
Free radicals are compounds that come from pollution, tobacco smoke, UV rays, additives and preservatives in processed foods and common bacteria and viruses. Your body also produces free radicals during natural processes like digestion and even breathing. Free radicals can cause harm if their levels become too high in your body. They’re linked to multiple illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Your body uses antioxidants to balance free radicals. This keeps them from causing damage to other cells. Antioxidants can protect and reverse some of the damage. They also boost your immunity and play a role in cancer prevention.
Mental health and antioxidants
The brain is especially susceptible to free radicals. Oxidative stress not only kills cells in the hippocampus, but it also reduces neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells). There is growing research showing a connection between a deficient antioxidant defense system, oxidative stress, and mood disorders.
A recent study found lower levels of vitamins A, C, and E in people with anxiety disorder and depression. After receiving 6-weeks of dietary supplementation, blood levels of antioxidants increased, and depression and anxiety symptoms were reduced.
Antioxidants are easy to find
Antioxidants are in almost every piece of fruit and every vegetable in your grocery store. They’re even in herbs, tea, coffee and spices. There are several nutrients in food that contain antioxidants. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene are among the most commonly studied dietary antioxidants. Antioxidants are found in berries, broccoli, oranges, onions, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, beans, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, etc.
With one sip of tea, you get two potent phytochemicals – anthocyanin and pro anthocyanin. Both are antioxidants that help fight inflammation.
Perhaps the best news is that dark chocolate is a reliable source of antioxidants. It contains several from a group called flavonoids. Studies have shown they can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Based on the FRAP analysis, dark chocolate has up to 15 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). This is even more than blueberries and raspberries, which contain up to 9.2 and 2.3 mmol of antioxidants in the same serving size, respectively.
Doctors recommend eating a balanced diet that include fresh fruits and vegetables. A lot of produce has natural antioxidants. It also contains minerals, fiber, and other vitamins. Eating healthy can help lower your risk of certain diseases.