If you read about health you’ve likely seen the word anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants job in our bodies is to collect the free radicals and dispose of them. Free radicals, including reactive oxygen species, are molecules with one or more unpaired electron. This seems counter intuitive to the average person because oxygen is usually a good thing when its carried from the lungs to every cell. This oxygen is different because it is a byproduct of our metabolic processes. So essentially, it’s part if the garbage of the body. These anti-oxidants are the garbage men that will collect the trash on a daily basis.
What causes oxidative stress in the body?
Oxidative stress is caused by unstable oxygen molecules. But what does that really do to the human body? It can damage cells, protein structures and even DNA (ie. oxidative damage). However, cells also produce antioxidants that neutralize these free radicals. In general, the body is able to maintain a balance between antioxidants and free radicals
Several factors contribute to oxidative stress and excess free radical production including:
- certain conditions
- environmental factors such as pollution and radiation
Cells contain structures called mitochondria, which work as the cells powerhouse to produce energy in the form of something called ATP.
Mitochondria combine oxygen and glucose to produce carbon dioxide, water, and ATP. Free radicals arise as byproducts of this metabolic process.
What else causes oxidative stress?
External substances, such as cigarette smoke, pesticides, and ozone, can also cause the formation of free radicals in the body.
So, why is it important to eat anti-oxidants in our diet?
It’s important to eat foods high in anti-oxidants because they help the body neutralize these free radicals that the body can’t handle which protects the body from oxidative damage. Changes in DNA can lead to many different disease processes. Some chronic diseases oxidative stress can cause include cancer, diabetes and heart disease.