Policing free radicals
Elvis Ali, ND
An antioxidant is a molecule that helps stop oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals. Learn how this helps the body and where to find the best antioxidant sources.
An antioxidant is a molecule that helps stop oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals–those molecules in the body that are unstable due to a missing electron. The free radical will try to stabilize itself by stealing an electron from one of the body’s healthy cells, a process called oxidation.
In this oxidation process, healthy cells can become damaged. That’s when antioxidants can help. An antioxidant can interfere in the oxidation process by donating an electron to the unstable free radical. This donation makes the free radical stable again, while allowing the antioxidant itself to also remain stable.
Free radicals are created by normal body processes, but can also be aggravated by stress and external factors such as pollution, radiation, and herbicides. The best approach to deal with oxidative stress is to get seven to eight hours of sleep per day; exercise a minimum of 30 minutes, three times weekly; and eat whole foods, including five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Antioxidants are naturally found in a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. Look for tomatoes, red peppers, berries (blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries), mangosteen, and pomegranate.
When your lifestyle does not provide enough antioxidants, supplementing with a natural health product is a good idea. Taking a multivitamin is the right place to start, as it provides the benefits of vitamins A, C, and E, and selenium. The specialty supplement CoQ10 is another antioxidant that helps to maintain cardiovascular health. CoQ10 is produced naturally in the body, but production declines with age. Generally, supplementing with CoQ10 is an intelligent way to help maintain cardiovascular health, but be sure to speak with a healthcare professional first.
No matter what combination of antioxidants is taken daily, think of them as insurance against the effects of aging, as well as a defence against illnesses caused by free radicals.