Today, many supplements, foods and beverages are touted to contain “antioxidants”. Although consumers are aware antioxidants can be helpful for our health, few of us really know how they actually work in the body. At Weo, we are science-driven and believe education is one of the best ways we can maximize our health – when we know better, we do better.
In this article we are going to discuss just exactly what antioxidants are, how they function in the body and why you should definitely keep some specific “selective” ones in your daily health routine.
What are Antioxidants?
According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants are substances that protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or when you’re exposed to tobacco smoke, some toxins or radiation.
Antioxidants are so helpful for the body that we have our own built-in system for their production – called the “endogenous pathway”. This pathway produces glutathione, superoxide dismutase and catalase – the top three antioxidants in the body. Because they are so important, Mother Nature also packed them in many of our foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and even cocoa. These foods contain molecules like vitamins C and E, carotenoids, flavonoids, tannins, phenols and lignans, all known scavenge free radicals.
But why do we need to get rid of free radicals? As their name suggests, when left unchecked and out of balance, these little mischief-makers are linked to many diseases.
What are Free Radicals?
By definition, free radicals are highly reactive, short-lived uncharged molecules. They impart their damage because they have an unpaired electron. This electron can bump into your cells and harm them structurally. The structure of your cells, which makes up all your organs and tissues, determines their function.
Think of your cell as a Lego car set – it works well but when your child pushes that Lego car over the counter, but when it breaks a wheel, it just doesn’t work as well. Antioxidants prevent this damage because they donate an electron so that the lone electron has a partner, making it unreactive. Free radicals are constantly being formed in your body when we breathe and eat and make energy – all these normal processes make these damaging molecules.
Why does the body make bad stuff from normal processes? This is because free radicals also serve important functions that are essential for health. For example, your immune cells use free radicals to fight infections. As a result, your body needs to maintain a certain balance of free radicals and antioxidants. The problems ensue when free radicals outnumber antioxidants, it can lead to a state called oxidative stress (also called “inflammation”). Prolonged oxidative stress can damage your DNA and other important molecules in your body. This can increase your risk of cancer, and some scientists have theorized that it plays a pivotal role in the aging process.
Where do the extra free radicals come from?
Several lifestyle, stress, and environmental factors are known to promote excessive free radical formation and oxidative stress. Those include, but are not limited to, air pollution, alcohol intake, toxins, high blood sugar levels, high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, cigarette smoke, stress, radiation, pathogenic infections, too much or too little oxygen in your body, intense and prolonged exercise, and antioxidant deficiency.
All of the aforementioned factors create or carry that lone electron that needs to be paired to become non-reactive. If these free radicals hang out too long and are not taken care of, this can lead to prolonged oxidative stress. With that, researchers believe there is an increased risk of negative health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
More is not always better but being selective is!
Keep in mind that most times after antioxidants donate an electron, they themselves can become oxidants that can cause damage! The body needs to get rid of these too! It’s all about balance. We want to be mindful of this balance and make sure we are not consuming copious amounts of supplemental antioxidants, especially ones that are not selective, meaning they scavenge all free radicals – even the ones that have positive effects in our body.
Therefore, in our opinion, the best strategy is to consume foods and water, especially electrolyzed water, that naturally contains a “selective antioxidant” that only gets rid of the truly bad free radicals – the ones that do not have a positive effect in the body. The intelligence of Weo water is amazing!