Radicals and Antioxidants: Mortal Enemies
Free radicals and antioxidants
are comparable to the Hatfields and the McCoys. Born sworn enemies,
free radicals and antioxidants literally cannot live together. Free
radicals are highly reactive compounds that have an unpaired electron.
They are produced during metabolism, and free radicals’ only
function is to destroy the body’s cells. Antioxidants are
born to stop free radicals from doing their bidding. Their mission
is to protect the body from any damage the free radicals may have
inflicted on its cells. When free radicals are released, antioxidants
go in to clean up the mess.
Your body is exposed to free radicals when it’s trying to
break down certain medicines, through pollutants like cigarette
smoke and UV radiation, and during normal body processes such as
the burning of sugars for energy.
Antioxidants can be found in foods in the form of vitamins, minerals,
polyphenols and more. Vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and flavonoids
are antioxidants. Foods like carrots have beta-carotene; kale, collards,
corn and eggs have lutein; and berries, red grapes, tea, apples,
chocolate and cocoa have flavonoids.
Free radicals can be defeated by antioxidants in supplements or
foods. Some studies have shown that it is best for people to receive
their antioxidants by consuming them through food rather than through
supplements. Still, sometimes people don’t have time to eat
a healthy, well-balanced meal filled with antioxidants. This is
when supplements are needed to prevent free radicals from taking
over and damaging the body’s cells.