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Ingredient Truths: What Are Antioxidants?

by kelly / October, 7 2015 01:30

This past weekend I was out to dinner with my girlfriends and while we were trading stories of diet and exercise, the subject of antioxidants came up.  My friends all agreed they were important because they read something about them somewhere but no one actually knew what they were.  

Like my girlfriends, I'm sure most of you have heard or read about antioxidants.  Have you ever wondered what they actually are and do?  Well I'm here to help answer these questions in this week's Ingredient Truths post so you can be the smartest person at your next dinner party.


What is An Antioxidant

An antioxidant is a molecule that prevents cellular damage caused by free radicals.  Free radicals form during the oxidation process.  Oxidation is a chemical reaction that actually takes place in the body and nature everyday.  Examples of oxidation include rusting of iron, browning of avocados or skin aging. So while oxidation is natural, the free radicals formed during the process can cause potential harm to the body and antioxidants help stop them from doing damage. 


What are Free Radicals

Free radicals, while natural and important to the body, are highly reactive chemicals that at high concentration have the potential to harm cells if these radicals form a chain reaction. According to the National Cancer Institute:

"Free radicals are formed naturally in the body and play an important role in many normal cellular processes. At high concentrations, however, free radicals can be hazardous to the body and damage all major components of cells, including DNA, proteins, and cell membranes. The damage to cells caused by free radicals, especially the damage to DNA, may play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions."

Free radical formation can be accelerated by such things as smoking, alcohol, pollution, stress and UV light exposure.  Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and inhibit them from causing damage - they are known as "free radical scavengers".  


Where Do Antioxidants Come From

There are two types of antioxidants: endogenous and exogenous.  Try saying those two words multiple times; you didn't think I'd get so technical right?  But really it's a simple explanation for both words.  

Endogenous antioxidants are antioxidants made naturally by the body and exogenous antioxidants come from external sources.  Exogenous antioxidants can come from:

  • Vitamins such as vitamins C and E (hey you can also find these vitamins in our Organic Revitalizing Night Cream and our other products - hint, hint Embarassed)
  • Minerals such as selenium and manganese
  • Plant compounds such as beta carotene and lycopene

You can also find exogenous antioxidants in fruits, vegetables and whole grains - think colors of the rainbow when trying to get a good mixture of these foods and their antioxidants in your diet.


So there you have it a quick crash course on antioxidants free of charge!  Enjoy your next dinner party and feel free to throw down some antioxidant knowledge.

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