Antioxidants: What They Are And Why You Need Them
You may not feel it, but your body is constantly at war. The battle is between your cells and free radicals. Here’s what’s at stake in this fight and what weapons you need to for combat.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are basically unstable atoms. These atoms do not have the normal amount of electrons and to help make up this deficit, they quickly try to bond with other substances’ electrons. This causes oxidative stress wherever the atom makes this bond.
Free radicals are everywhere. They are a byproduct of pollution, tobacco products, and even your own body when it is fighting an infection.
Why should we care about oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress damages your body’s cells. On your skin, this causes wrinkles. In other areas of your body, it can ultimately cause illnesses or chronic pain. Frighteningly, it can even damage DNA. Most people accept wrinkles, joint aches, and illnesses as a normal part of aging. In fact, it does not have to be “normal” and substances called antioxidants can slow down this process.
What are curcumin and turmeric and why are they so important?
If you are interested in alternative medicine or natural supplements you have probably heard of turmeric and curcumin. Although these names may be new to you, these substances have been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. These words are often seen together, but they are not the same thing. Here is the scoop on curcumin vs turmeric.
Curcumin is a major weapon in the war against oxidization and comes from the turmeric plant. It not only increases the production of our own antioxidants, but it is also very efficient at neutralizing free radicals due to its chemical structure. You can recognize turmeric and curcumin by its golden color. In fact, it is one of the major ingredients in golden milk, together with spices such as cinnamon and ginger. Golden milk is a healthful and soothing bedtime drink that can help with joint pain over time.
What do antioxidants actually do?
You know that curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and that antioxidants are a good thing, but what exactly do they do to help? The answer to this question is pretty amazing. Antioxidants are molecules in your cells and they can give any free radicals that come their way that extra atom the free radical is looking for.
Surprisingly, though, giving up an atom does not make the antioxidant unstable; it just stops the free radical from causing damage to any other cells.
Where else can we get antioxidants?
Our bodies’ cells produce their own antioxidants in the form of lipoic acid and glutathione. These may have been enough for ancient people to fight off free radicals but our ancestors were not dealing with today’s levels of pollution or the effects of cigarette smoke. Now, our cells need help to do all of this fighting, so supplementing our own natural antioxidants is a great idea.
Antioxidants in foods are easy to find. They are in green tea, cocoa, and in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and oranges. The more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more betacarotene it contains, and beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant.
What about the skin?
If your biggest concern about free radicals is your skin, taking antioxidants in the form of foods or supplements will help. It may be a while before you see results, though, despite the fact that the antioxidants are definitely working hard to keep you healthy. Luckily, as far as skin is concerned, antioxidants also come in the form of lotions, creams, and serums. Using these can directly help your skin stay younger and healthier longer and improvements should be visible quickly. They may even help prevent skin cancer. Although the war against free radicals is very real, it’s good to know the enemy and the weapons needed to fight it.
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