Antioxidants are a kind of compounds you hear about on a regular basis, however their features, advantages, and sources aren’t at all times clear. This text is for everybody who’s ever puzzled “what are antioxidants, and am I getting sufficient of them?”

Let’s separate myths from info and take a look at which nutritional vitamins have antioxidant properties, which meals are excessive in antioxidants, and what the advantages are of antioxidants in your food regimen.


What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds are substances present in meals like vegetables and fruit that will stop or delay sure kinds of cell injury. “They’re the physique’s means of preventing toxins and irritation,” says Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN, of Frugal Diet.

“Antioxidants may be consumed in sure identified nutritional vitamins, like nutritional vitamins A, C and E,” explains Liz Wyosnick, MS, RDN, proprietor of the Seattle-based observe Equilibriyum. There are additionally phytochemicals (chemical compounds derived from vegetation) which have antioxidant-like properties, resembling selenium and zinc, and a few carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenols.

Most meals boast a distinctive mix and quantity of antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds — from apples to walnuts and goji berries to spinach — however don’t fear about particular ranges or mixtures, says Self: “Eat the rainbow to get a variety of antioxidants.”


How Do Antioxidants Work?

Antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds may also help stop or counteract the oxidative stress that outcomes from publicity to extremely reactive atoms known as free radicals. Wyosnick likens this stress to a gradual rusting within the physique.

Free radicals can type as a product of regular metabolic processes within the physique, together with these related to train and the conversion of meals to vitality. They’ll additionally end result from environmental elements like X-rays, smoking, and air pollution, explains Wyosnick.

By altering the chemical constructions of cells, free radicals have the potential to wreck them and their elements, together with cell proteins and DNA. Antioxidants function a balancing agent in an in any other case poisonous surroundings.


Ought to You Take Antioxidant Dietary supplements?

Dietary supplements can function a useful backup for those who’re not getting sufficient antioxidants in your food regimen. After all, that will even be a sign that you want to make some adjustments to your grocery checklist. That’s why Wyosnick recommends making an attempt to get your antioxidants primarily from entire meals.

“Spinach is a good supply of antioxidants as a result of it’s spinach, not as a result of it incorporates carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin,” she explains. “Taking lutein by itself might not provide the identical advantages as a easy spinach salad… The meals at all times has the right mixture of compounds for assimilation and utilization by the physique.”

As for a way to decide on that meals, Wyosnick has some recommendation: “I encourage my purchasers to permit the season and their style preferences to information them when selecting meals sources of antioxidants, and to purpose for various colours of those meals, as typically as doable.”

When that’s not doable, Shakeology incorporates antioxidant nutritional vitamins A, C, and E and superfoods like camu-camu and pomegranate, which have antioxidant properties, all in a type issue that’s handy and versatile.


Antioxidant Advantages

Since oxidation is occurring on a regular basis within the physique, antioxidants have their work lower out for them — and that’s additionally why antioxidants have broad advantages. However whereas antioxidants are present in meals like vegetables and fruit which can be identified to assist promote regular operate and decrease well being dangers, it stays unclear whether or not it’s the antioxidants in these meals that present the advantages or one thing else.

Right here’s a take a look at identified advantages linked particularly to antioxidants.

1. Cut back free radicals

“Primarily, we’ve got free radicals in our our bodies from completely different exposures and stressors,” Self says. “They’re like a bunch of bulls in a china store — they run round wreaking havoc and inflicting injury within the physique. Antioxidants swoop in and neutralize them to allow them to’t injury our cells.”

2. Stimulate regular cell development

Cell demise, or apoptosis, is part of a cell’s life cycle, however free radicals may cause extra cells to die off quicker within the physique. Antioxidants and antioxidant-like compounds not solely assist suppress cell demise, but in addition stimulate regular cell development in wholesome people.

3. Defend cells from untimely growing older

As we age, our cells regenerate extra slowly, however sure kinds of antioxidant-like compounds (resembling polyphenols) may also help offset or delay aging-related adjustments to cells.

4. Help immune operate

The immune system is “notably delicate to oxidative stress,” in response to researchers. Antioxidants like nutritional vitamins A, C, and E, and beta-carotene, together with antioxidant-like compounds resembling selenium, copper, iron, and zinc, may also help hold the immune system sturdy.