Oxygen is essential for life, but it also contributes to the formation of free radicals—rogue molecules of oxygen that can destroy cell membranes in the body and speed up the aging process. Free radicals are byproducts of natural body processes such as breathing, digestion, and cellular metabolism, but exposure to sunlight, smoke, and pollution can also abet the accumulation of free radicals in the body. If not regularly cleared from the system, free radicals can cause cell damage, contribute to the development of many illnesses, and generally promote the premature aging of body systems. Fortunately, bodies can leverage antioxidants, compounds that neutralize free radicals and limit the damage they do to organs. The body naturally produces some antioxidant compounds on its own, while others are obtained through the nutrient-rich foods. There are many different antioxidants and a wide array is needed. Foods known to be good sources of antioxidants including fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, red wine, and dark chocolate. By neutralizing free radicals and preventing cell damage, antioxidants help boost health and bolster immune function.
What Are Antioxidants?
The Health Benefits of Antioxidants
Without a way to counteract free radicals effectively, they would overwhelm body systems and result in chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, and degenerative brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Antioxidants are thus crucial to strengthening the immune system and guarding against cognitive decline, heart disease, inflammation, and vision loss. They also help skin appear youthful by fending off age spots and wrinkles. The best way of maintaining a steady, varied supply of antioxidants is through consumption of a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet.