Antioxidants: the cancer warriors
Joanne Carr, RHN
A: An antioxidant is a molecule stable enough to donate an electron to a rampaging free radical and neutralize it, thus reducing its capacity to damage. Antioxidants delay or inhibit cellular damage mainly through their free-radical scavenging abilities.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause severe damage to cells. They are produced as a result of oxidation in the body. If you would like to experience first-hand what oxidation is all about, a good example would be to slice an apple and leave it on the counter for a few hours. The browning of the apple is the result of oxidation.
Not only are free radicals being produced in the body, but they are also in our environment. Pollution, tobacco smoke, radiation, and excessive sun exposure encourage free radicals. Lifestyle-related factors such as smoking, stress, a poor diet, fried foods, and alcohol consumption are just a few examples of how we can become exposed to free radicals in our daily lives.
Antioxidants include minerals such as selenium, chromium, and zinc; vitamins such as vitamin C and E; and many herbs. Most vitamins and minerals are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants support the body by protecting it against cancer-causing free radicals. Antioxidants such as green tea extract, grapeseed extract, and curcumin are known for their cancer-fighting properties.
Along with a healthy diet, exercise, and effective stress management, antioxidants are invaluable when helping to defend against cellular damage and compromised immune function. Visit your local health food store to learn more about antioxidant supplements.