Our bodies are battlegrounds against infection and diseases. Normal body functions such as breathing or physical activity and other lifestyle habits such as smoking produce substances called free radicals that attack healthy cells. When these healthy cells are weakened, they are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids, which include beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein, help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Antioxidants are a bit like rust protection for the body. Because they have one or more unpaired electrons, free radicals are highly unstable. They scavenge your body to grab or donate electrons, thereby damaging cells, proteins, and DNA. The same oxidative process also causes oils to become rancid, peeled apples to turn brown, and iron to rust. As with everything that gets rusty over time, the oxidation of our cells is damaging and leads to the early onset of diseases particularly associated with old age. Antioxidants, which are in in various foods from cantaloupe, blueberries and walnuts, reduce the effects of oxidization and repair the damage as well, which helps you to have a longer life.
Antioxidants are substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging, but normal, effects of the physiological process of oxidation in animal tissue. Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions). They are believed to play a role in preventing the development of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts.
It is impossible for us to avoid damage by free radicals. Free radicals arise from sources both inside and outside our bodies. Our antioxidant systems are not perfect, so as we age, cell parts damaged by oxidation accumulate. Antioxidants block the process of oxidation by neutralizing free radicals. In doing so, the antioxidants themselves become oxidized. That is why there is a constant need to replenish our antioxidant resources.
Studies consistently demonstrate that for optimum health, you should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday as part of a balanced diet. Sometimes we don’t always eat exactly perfect. You could talk to your doctor about taking an antioxidant supplement if you feel that your diet could use some help.