What are ANTIOXIDANTS?
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Antioxidants minimise the free radical or reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage to cells. They may have a natural or synthetic origin. Antioxidants from food and supplements are called exogenous antioxidants, and antioxidants produced by our bodies are known as endogenous antioxidants. Numerous studies have proven that antioxidants help boost overall health by suppressing oxidative stress. This article will help understand what free radicals are, the sources of free radicals (so we can minimise the release of free radicals), what antioxidants are and the types of antioxidants with their food sources.
What are FREE RADICALS?
Free radical atoms or molecules are waste products that our body produces due to chemical reactions. Their sources could be internal or external. For example, since our body is under constant attack from oxidative stress, oxygen splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. These oxygen atoms (free radicals) are volatile and travel throughout the body in search of an electron to stabilise themselves. They try stealing electrons from healthy cells. The chain reaction continues until all the free radicals stabilise. Free radicals may cause extensive damage to DNA and cells in the process of getting electrons. Free radicals can also cause accelerated ageing, cancer, heart diseases etc.
What are the SOURCES of Free Radicals?
Free radicals may be produced internally (inside the body) or introduced externally. The primary sources of free radicals are as follows:
Important metabolic processes.
Consumption of alcohol.
Exposure to tobacco smoke.
What are ANTIOXIDANTS?
Antioxidants are substances that help stabilise free radicals. They are produced inside the body and also found in food. Antioxidants work by giving electrons to the unstable free radicals and helping them stabilise. Once stabilised, free radicals no longer seek electrons from healthy cells. Thus, antioxidants help shield healthy cells from damage.
What are the distinct TYPES of Antioxidants and their FOOD SOURCES?
Antioxidants are naturally produced in the body and found in food. The following are the major types of antioxidants and their food sources:
#1 Glutathione: Produced naturally in the body and found in foods like whey protein, spinach, okra, asparagus, avocado, non pasteurised milk etc.
#2 Alpha-lipoic acid: Produced naturally in the body and found in foods like broccoli, spinach, tomato, organ meat etc.
#3 Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin found in foods like tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, green pepper, red pepper, spinach etc.
#4 Vitamin E: A fat-soluble vitamin found in almond, spinach, pumpkin, peanut, sunflower seed, avocado etc.
#5 Beta carotene: A fat-soluble organic compound found in foods like spinach, lettuce, red pepper, broccoli etc.
#6 Vitamin A: A fat-soluble vitamin found in egg yolk, milk, organ meat etc.
#7 Trace elements like selenium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc: Found in almond, spinach, meat, dark chocolate etc.
#8 Zoochemicals: Found in seafood, meat, organ meat etc.
#9 Allium sulphur compounds: Found in garlic, onion, shallot, leek etc.
#10 Cryptoxanthins: Found in orange, pumpkin, red pepper etc.
#11 Anthocyanins: Found in red cabbage, red radish, eggplant, blueberry etc.
#12 Catechins: Found in green tea, black tea, strawberry, cocoa etc.
#13 Polyphenols: Found in dark chocolate, cocoa, clove, strawberry etc.
#14 Lycopene: Found in tomato, red pepper, red cabbage, asparagus etc.
#15 Isoflavones: Found in peanut, almond, milk, soy products etc.
#16 Flavonoids: Found in green tea, black tea, onion, tomato, lettuce etc.
#17 Lutein: Found in broccoli, lettuce, kale, spinach etc.
#18 Indoles: Found in cabbage, cauliflower, kale etc.
#19 Lignans: Found in sesame seed, flax seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed etc.
All the food source antioxidants are also available as dietary supplements.
To minimise damage caused by free radicals, eat foods high in antioxidants or have potent supplements for the same.
Free radicals are a waste product from chemical reactions that our body produces. Their sources could be internal or external.
Free radicals are unstable and travel throughout the body to find an electron and stabilise themselves.
Antioxidants help stabilise free radicals by sharing electrons.
Our body produces antioxidants, and antioxidants are also available in our food.
We hope the article helped understand what free radicals are, the sources of free radicals, what antioxidants are and the types of antioxidants with their food sources.