How do Antioxidants Work

Maybe you've heard antioxidants are good for you or been puzzled when a coworker joked that her chocolate bar wasn't so bad since it delivers a boatload of antioxidants. But what are antioxidants and how antioxidants work?

Antioxidants are tiny molecules that protect your cells from damage done by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that glom onto molecules containing proteins or DNA and cause damage. It's kind of like when you cut an apple and leave it on the counter and it turns brown. If you dip the apple slice in lemon juice (which contains vitamin C, an antioxidant), the apple slice will stay nice and fresh, right?  Antioxidants do the same thing inside your body-they protect your cells from the attacks of those nasty free radicals.

It sounds like there's a war going on inside your body, and on a molecular level, there is. Many factors are warring against the health of your cells, including natural aging processes, pollution and toxins. If you eat foods rich in antioxidants, you are supplying your body with natural resistance to these warring factors. Antioxidants combat oxidization and damage on a cellular level.

Some foods are higher in antioxidants than others. You will want to try to eat food items that are high in dietary antioxidants such as legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts and seeds. These foods are natural cancer-fighting foods.

Many people take antioxidant supplements also in an effort to fight the effects of aging and cancer. Supplements can help you get the antioxidants you need in tablet or capsule form if you fear you can't eat enough fruits, legumes and vegetables.

The FDA recommends you consume 3,000 units of ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity - a way to measure the amount of antioxidants in a food) a day. Considering 100 grams of blueberries contains 2,400 units of ORAC (antioxidants) and 100 grams of spinach contains 1230 units of ORAC, it is easy to consume the amount recommended if you simply eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables as recommended by the FDA.

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Antioxidants work with the body to protect cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. Antioxidant vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and carotenoids like beta-carotene, lyopene and lutein.

You're heard how good antioxidants are for your diet-they improve your skin, your health, fight cancer and extend your life expectancy-and now you want to get more antioxidants into your diet. Fortunately, it's easy to find foods high in antioxidants.

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Working together or separately, antioxidants seek out and neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules that compromise the structure and activity of healthy cells.

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I first was introduced to green tea in 1998 when I heard a lecture by an epidemiologist about his research on Green Tea.

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