Antioxidants: What They Are and Why You Need Them

Posted: Jan 16 in Healthy Eating Menu by

Antioxidants have been widely publicized as healthy nutrients that come with a wide range of impressive health benefits. While some of these health claims are unproven, there are several health benefits backed by extensive research. Here’s what you need to know about antioxidants and their purpose.

Free Radicals

Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals in the body and help to protect against oxidative stress. Free radicals are unstable molecules produced naturally by the body. Adequate antioxidant intake keeps these natural free radicals under control. However, some lifestyle, environmental and other factors cause excess production of free radicals.

If the body experiences high levels of free radicals and is unable to neutralize them with sufficient antioxidants, it can lead to oxidative stress. When oxidative stress continues for a long period of time, it can damage DNA and cells within the body. Oxidative stress has been linked to an increased risk of several serious diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.


Antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, flavonoids and curcuminoids, are found in a wide range of fruit, vegetables, drinks, spices and other food sources. Increasing your intake of antioxidant-rich foods, such as green tea, coffee, dark chocolate, blueberries and turmeric, helps to maintain the right balance of free radicals in your body.

Antioxidant Supplements

Most people get enough antioxidants from their diet, but some lifestyle factors and health conditions can significantly increase the number of free radicals in the body, which means that supplements may be necessary for some people.

Smoking, chronic stress, high blood sugar levels, exposure to radiation, excess alcohol intake, ingesting toxins and living in an area with air pollution can increase levels of free radicals in the body. Some types of infection can also cause excess free radicals.

Antioxidant supplements may help to control these extra free radicals. However, taking high-strength supplements can cause an excess intake of antioxidants, leading to health problems. Studies have found that excess antioxidants in the body can increase oxidative stress, making them almost as harmful as free radicals. Therefore, maintaining the right balance of free radicals and antioxidants is the key to staying healthy.

Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals and protect against disease. Most people are able to get enough antioxidants from their diet, although some people may need supplements. Due to potential side effects from excess antioxidant intake, it’s important to consult a doctor before taking high-strength supplements.

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