From salads to smoothies, it feels like antioxidants are everywhere! But what are antioxidants exactly? What do antioxidants do? And what is the easiest way to get more antioxidants in your diet? In this article we’ll explore the science of antioxidants, the effect of antioxidants on the body, and the best foods for antioxidants. Let’s dive right in!
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that, because of their chemical composition, are able to “give” other unstable molecules an extra electron to stabilize or neutralize them, preventing oxidative stress. Feeling a little lost already? That’s ok. We’ll break it down even more!
Inside your body right now there are thousands of chemical reactions taking place. From digestion to exercise, just about everything you do produces chemical reactions. A natural part of these chemical reactions is the breakdown, exchange, and movement of molecules and their parts and pieces, mostly electrons. So, while all the chemicals in your body are do-si-doing their happy chemical dances, sometimes molecules end up with an unpaired electron.
This missing electron makes the molecule unstable and able to cause unintended reactions elsewhere in the body in its search for a spare electron. These electron-seeking chemicals are called “free radicals” and while that may sound like the name of a tough punk rock band, it’s actually a totally normal and regular part of our biology. However, when there are too many free radicals and not enough spare electrons you get Oxidative Stress, and that’s not good. Oxidative stress can damage other important molecules, and studies link oxidative stress with certain types of cancer, eye diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. So, how do you combat oxidative stress? With Antioxidants!
In short: Free radicals want extra electrons. Antioxidants have extra electrons. When you keep free radicals and antioxidant compounds in balance you avoid oxidative stress. Yay!
So, Where are Antioxidants?
The great news is that antioxidants are found in lots of tasty foods because many antioxidant molecules are vitamins! Foods high in antioxidants include dark chocolate, blueberries, artichokes, kale, and strawberries. Doesn’t that sound delicious?! But if you want to keep your antioxidant levels high between your fresh fruits and veggies Nuun Vitamins and Nuun Immunity both contain antioxidants in the form of Vitamin C (a natural antioxidant!).