The health benefits of antioxidants are truly amazing. Everyone should be getting more antioxidants in their diet to prevent cancer and disease, as well as improve overall health. Antioxidants are crucial molecules in the human body, responsible for fighting “free radicals”.
What exactly are these free radicals that antioxidants help battle? Free radicals are known for causing a range of health disorders, rapid ageing, and diseases. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven ratio of electrons. The uneven number of electrons in free radicals allows them to create chemical reactions in your body linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Antioxidants work by bringing your body back into balance and fighting off free radicals.
The human body has natural antioxidant defences already in place, but you can also find antioxidants in foods that are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Consuming foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries, raspberries and kale will help you reap the health benefits of antioxidants and live a healthier lifestyle.
Higher amounts of antioxidants in your system means better protection against the damage caused by free radicals.
Antioxidants help your body fight off diseases, and that’s why foods rich in antioxidants are thought to be cancer-fighting and disease-preventing foods. This doesn’t mean that eating foods rich in antioxidants will guarantee you never get cancer or diseases, but adopting a diet higher in antioxidants could reduce your risk of cancer and disease.
How Important are Antioxidants? Health Benefits of Antioxidants
Below are some of the health benefits of antioxidants:
- Reduced risk of cancer and disease
- Improved brain health
- Reduced signs of aging
- Healthier skin
- Protection of eye health
- Improved mood and other mental health benefits
- Fight free radicals
- Reduce oxidative stress
Most people could benefit from increasing their consumption of antioxidants because we’re all constantly battling free radicals. Without help from antioxidants, free radicals would travel unhampered through the body, eventually leading to death.
Notably, you do need some free radicals in your system, as they’re used by the immune system to fight infections. Staying healthy means finding the right balance of antioxidants and free radicals.
When free radicals outnumber the antioxidants in your system, it leads to oxidative stress, which increases your risk of cancer, and rapid ageing by damaging your DNA.
Some of the conditions linked to oxidative stress include:
- Chronic Inflammation: Infections and injuries trigger the immune system to start the process of inflammation for healing. Under normal circumstances, inflammation will subside when the infection or damage is eliminated. However, when oxidative stress triggers inflammation, this produces more free radicals, creating a cycle of chronic damage. The result of chronic inflammation can include diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.
- Neurodegenerative disease: Scientists believe oxidative stress may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, as around 20% of the body’s oxygen intake is used by the brain. Oxidative stress reduces the brain’s exposure to oxygen and can even cause cell death. Oxidative stress also alters essential proteins which may lead to plaque build-up in the brain.
- Cancer: Many forms of cancer are linked to the damage of DNA in the body. When you have an excess of free radicals and not enough antioxidants in your system, cells begin to mutate and die. Eventually, free radicals can lead to cancer.
Does Everyone Need More Antioxidants in Their Diet?
Some people have higher needs for antioxidants than others. For example, some people will have a higher free radical to antioxidant ratio because they’re exposed to the environment and lifestyle factors that create free radicals, such as:
- Air pollution
- Cigarette smoke
- Alcohol intake
- Excessive stress
- High blood sugar
- Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections
- Radiation (often from excessive sunbathing)
- High intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Antioxidant deficiency
Getting the right balance of antioxidant-rich foods into your diet supports the natural antioxidant defences you already have in place. With antioxidants, you can slow down the ageing process, improve your health, protect against common diseases, and even live longer.
Symptoms of an Antioxidant Deficiency
One of the simplest ways to determine whether you have an antioxidant deficiency is with a DNA test. The CircleDNA test results will provide you with information regarding which vitamins you have a genetically higher need of, including whether or not you need more antioxidants in your diet.
If you’re low in a specific kind of antioxidant, you may see specific symptoms linked to an absence of that nutrient, such as:
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C deficiency presents in the form of bumpy skin, easy bruising, and slowly healing wounds.
- Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A): Lack of vitamin A can cause dry eyes and skin, damaged fertility, and delayed growth.
- Vitamin E: When you’re deficient in vitamin E, it can cause symptoms such as muscle weakness, poor immune system functioning, and vision problems.
If you’re low in antioxidants overall, symptoms are likely to coincide with higher levels of oxidative stress. Mild deficiencies may cause symptoms like poor cognition, chronic inflammation, or a damaged immune system. Extensive oxidative stress is linked to conditions such as:
- Rapidly aging skin
- Joint diseases
- Heart disease
- Vision loss
- Respiratory disease
- Immune deficiency
- Hair loss
- Senile dementia
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Because the subtler symptoms of oxidative stress aren’t always easy to recognise, it’s important to keep a close eye on your antioxidant intake. If you’re feeling unwell, more fatigued than usual, or as though you’re constantly coming down with ailments, speak to your doctor and consider getting testing done to check your antioxidant levels.
Remember that in general, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants is a healthy way of eating that contributes to your overall wellness.