What are Antioxidants, Anyways?

Antioxidants: We know we want them, but why? They have snuck their way onto labels and menus as a health and food industry buzzword, but what, exactly, is the buzz about? Trust us when we say this:  they are not overhyped!

Antioxidants occur naturally in plant-based foods like veggies and fruits, plus some of your favorite earthy treats like coffee, tea, chocolate, and even wine. To understand them fully, it’s helpful to know what they are up against ­— oxidation.

Oxidation, in the plainest terms possible, is oxygen’s interaction with cells. Think iron rusting or guacamole browning. Oxidation (or oxidants) within your body is 100 percent natural and even necessary, but it’s not always perfect. Sometimes, oxidation causes cell damage, turning cells into what are known as free radicals. For context, it can be helpful to note that free radicals also stem from sun exposure, cigarette smoke, alcohol, and pollution. Read: They are the bad guys!

Too many free radicals building up over time have the potential to be permanently damaging to cells. Many scientists believe that free radicals can contribute to the aging process as well as certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

This is where antioxidants swoop in to earn their buzz. Antioxidants are a natural, power-packed way to counteract the damage caused by free radicals.  Their superpowers include stopping chain reactions in their tracks and defending the body against compromised health.

Before you run out to stock up on antioxidant supplements, though, remember that balance is key.  Health-wise, it’s actually ideal to have a good balance of oxidants and antioxidants. It’s near impossible to overload on antioxidants with food and drink alone, so it’s advisable to get your dose of antioxidants through bright fruits, veggies, and other natural sources.  We’re thinking blueberries, bananas, pineapples, grapefruit, red peppers, beets, kale…the list could go on. Cue your stomach growling. Not to mention a little chocolate thrown in for good measure…