These days, you probably hear the word “antioxidants” thrown around all the time.
These hip molecules pop up in skincare that promises to reverse your wrinkles, in health foods that promise to re-energize your life, and right here on this blog, in juice recipe after juice recipe.
But chances are you have no idea what antioxidants do–you just know that they’re good for you.
Who are these friendly strangers? Why should you welcome them into your life?
The basics of antioxidants
In a nutshell, antioxidants protect your body from free radicals. But let’s back up a little bit more.
All cells naturally undergo a process called oxidization, which is what happens when oxygen interacts with any cell. You know how apple slices turn brown if you leave them out in the open for too long? That’s oxidization!
Oxidization is a natural process that happens as your body metabolizes oxygen. Your cells are constantly dying and being born; it’s a totally normal bodily process (so don’t be freaked out by the thought of oxygen touching you).
However, every now and then, oxidization results in a cell getting damaged–and that damaged cell turns into a free radical.
Free radicals reproduce very quickly, mutating other cells by damaging their DNA and turning them into free radicals like themselves. This rapid-fire chain reaction, if it keeps going, is what leads to chronic diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Cigarette smoking, air pollution, and excessive drinking all trigger significant free radical production.
But never fear – antioxidants are here!
Different kinds of antioxidants either prevent the chain reaction of free radicals or stop them from happening altogether, which is why it’s so important to get your antioxidants from various sources (think broccoli, chia, and blueberries – but maybe not all of them together on your morning oatmeal!)
We’ll talk about the various types of antioxidants in the next article, but until then, fling some greens into that juicer and make a pot of green tea. As for free radicals? The door’s that way.