Antioxidants and Free Radicals
People hear about the health benefits of many fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and tea. Many people aren't precisely sure why these selections are so healthy in the first place and why it is a good idea to eat them on a regular basis. While the explanations for this are probably complicated from a scientific perspective, the answer at least partly comes down to antioxidants and free radicals. Most fruits, vegetables, types of tea, and many types of whole grains are very high in antioxidants.
The Free Radical Theory
When oxygen interacts with certain types of molecules, it can form free radicals in the cell. When these free radicals interact with DNA or other important cellular components, they can cause widespread damage throughout the body. They can also spread as a result of a cell's replication mechanism. Free radicals have a lot of unpaired electrons and are going to constantly try to remedy that situation in a way that is as inevitable as the two poles of a magnet being attracted to one another.
How Antioxidants Work
Antioxidants can actually interact with free radicals without causing any additional problems, which should be impressive for anyone who has ever devised strategies to solve problems at the cellular level like that. They will stop free radicals from causing damage to important cellular components through their own interference with the underlying chemical processes.
Human beings already have enzymatic systems that allow them to get rid of free radicals. However, people are exposed to a lot of hazards that can exacerbate the levels of free radicals that they will encounter on the cellular level. Pollution and some of the chemicals in unhealthy foods are going to more or less ensure that people will put their bodies through more stress as a result of free radicals, thus causing far more problems.
Antioxidants stop other molecules from being oxidized, which literally means that oxygen is going to be added to them. When oxidation occurs, it can automatically produce free radicals. Oxygen is an extremely reactive molecule, which should not be surprising considering how many molecules use oxygen as a base. Antioxidants can stop a lot of cellular damage indirectly just by ending the oxidation process in a lot of the worst chemicals.
The cellular damage that free radicals can cause will have multiple effects throughout the human body. According to some research, free radicals can cause cellular damage that will eventually lead to cancer. Free radicals may be linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, and many other terrible degenerative conditions. There is research to suggest that fighting free radicals with antioxidants can make all the difference when it comes to prolonging a person's lifespan and preventing age-related diseases.
Some people go so far as to say that it can prevent aging. Many longevity researchers who are trying to extend the human lifespan are focusing on other strategies. However, consuming more antioxidants may be able to help people stay healthy for much longer, which is still going to make a huge difference for them. These people will be healthier later in life, which could make them that much more receptive to the longevity treatments that may exist by that point.
Sources of Antioxidants
Given all of the enthusiasm about antioxidants, lots of people are trying to take them through dietary supplements. Some of the studies on antioxidants have focused on their efficacy when they are from dietary supplements. However, most researchers are more enthusiastic about people being able to get most of their antioxidants from food.
People with diets that are rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, tea, and other rich sources of antioxidants have consistently demonstrated that they are going to live longer. This might be a direct result of the antioxidant content in these foods. However, it may also have something to do with the chemical balance of the foods in general, the way the body breaks them down, and many other factors. It is possible that researchers don't know enough about the subject yet to really be able to give people everything they need when it comes to supplements.
However, taking antioxidant supplements can certainly make a difference for a lot of people, especially if they're not going to be able to get a lot of their important nutrients through fruits and vegetables in the first place. Still, people in this category are better off trying to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables. They will still get more health benefits that way, regardless of the ultimate efficacy of antioxidant supplements.
Berries are some of the most antioxidant rich fruits. The ones that are more darkly colored are the best. Brightly-colored fruits and vegetables in general tend to be the best when it comes to antioxidants, since the pigmentation is often the source of the antioxidants themselves. People should let the colors of the antioxidants be their guide.
When it comes to tea, green tea has gotten the lion's share of praise. However, people can still get a lot of health benefits from drinking black tea. Black tea is rich with antioxidants, and people who drink a lot of it are certainly not going to have any problems with the antioxidant content that they get. White tea is often regarded as being inferior to the other two, but it is possible that it might have more hidden benefits. People who drink a variety of teas will get all of the benefits.
Ultimately, the people who will win the battle between antioxidants and free radicals will be the people who try many different options. People who take supplements, who eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink different kinds of tea, and who eat varied diets in general are usually going to have the best luck. Free radicals are dangerous, and there is little dispute about that. Researchers aren't sure how many antioxidants people will need in order to fight them, but it is certainly a good idea to prepare as much as possible.