Chances are you’ve heard of antioxidants, but do you really know what these molecular superheroes can do?
Antioxidants are natural or synthetic substances that can prevent some types of cell damage by destroying harmful free radicals.
Examples of antioxidants are beta-carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Selenium, Vitamins A, C and E, Resveratrol and Glutathione. You can pump up your body’s antioxidant levels through diet or supplementation.
How Are Antioxidants Essential for Good Health?
They help protect healthy cells.
Free radicals can weaken healthy cells, making your body more vulnerable to illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition, antioxidants such as Vitamins C, E and carotenoids may help protect healthy cells from injury from free radicals.
Also, the “master antioxidant” Glutathione is a little-known substance with a hugely important role in cell defense. Produced naturally in your liver, glutathione’s primary function is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. It provides a “critical defense system” for the body’s cells.
They may slow the aging process.
Oxidative damage from free radicals is a known biochemical mechanism involved in aging. This harm to cells brings a whole host of problems associated with getting older. Glutathione’s ability to combat oxidative damage makes it a critical component in health and longevity.
Glutathione also rids your cells of toxins. Because natural levels of glutathione drop off substantially with age, many in the health community have looked to supplementation to boost glutathione levels.
They help your vision.
Free radicals can contribute to deterioration of the eye lens, which can lead to blindness. Research suggests that diets high in antioxidants may bring a lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. According to the American Optometric Association, antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements reduced the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration by about 25 percent in clinical trials.
They save your skin.
Exposure to ultraviolet light can cause free radicals to form in the skin. This is thought to lead to problems such as photoaging and cancer.
Antioxidants are used both topically (in skin creams said to prevent wrinkles and aging) and orally to fight free radical damage to the skin. Some of the most popular antioxidants for skin rejuvenation are beta-carotene and Vitamin E.
They may protect against cardiovascular disease.
Harmful free radicals may play a role in atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. But the antioxidant Resveratrol may help fight the buildup.
In an animal study cited in 2014 by the U.S. government’s National Institute on Aging, Resveratrol was found to help protect against heart disease. Researchers found that resveratrol prevented arterial stiffening and inflammation in subjects, and reduced fatty build up and calcification of the arteries.