We often read about how antioxidants are good for us, but what exactly are they, why do you need them and where do you get them?
What are antioxidants? Antioxidants are protective molecules that neutralize free radicals and protect the body from damage. They help defend the body by feeding electrons to the free radicals, which neutralize them. Antioxidants are found in a variety of foods, especially fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. The body also creates its own antioxidant enzymes.
What are free radicals? Free radicals are the bad guys that antioxidants go after. They are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron in their molecular structure. Electrons are most stable in pairs, so a free radical tries to stabilize itself by attaching to cell membranes in the body to "steal" their molecules of electrons. When the "attacked" molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction.
What causes free radicals? Free radicals are caused by essential metabolic processes, such as breathing, eating and walking. Sometimes the cells of the body's immune system purposefully create them to neutralize viruses and bacteria. Free radicals are also formed in ever-increasing numbers outside the body by factors such as pollution, radiation, pesticides and sun exposure.
How do free radicals harm us? Where can we get antioxidants?