Antioxidants… you hear the term used on the regular, but do you really understand what they are and why you need them? Many superfoods are hailed for their antioxidant properties, but what are they exactly? Do they make you look younger? Do they ensure you stay healthy? Well, partially, but there is more you need to know about antioxidants.
There is research that suggests some antioxidants may help reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack, improve memory, and prevent skin damage. However, just because you stock up on antioxidants doesn’t mean you’ll achieve better results. You should enjoy all things in moderation—antioxidants are no different.
What are antioxidants?
In case you didn’t know, antioxidants are a substance that inhibit oxidiation. In our bodies, oxidiation occurs all the time, especially when we age. So, our bodily functions tend to slow down and deteriorate, causing things like vision loss. The role of antioxidants is to remove these harmful oxidizing agents in the body, which keep our cells and other living organisms functioning as normal.
What you need to know about antioxidants
You don’t need antioxidants to stay healthy. Two studies that tested the benefits of antioxidants for treating cancer tumors found that when antioxidants increased, so did the size of the tumors. There have been other research findings that did not find a change in disease risk with the intake of antioxidants.
Another big myth is that our bodies use all the antioxidants we take in. This is also false, as many antioxidants aren’t easily absorbed by the body. Furthermore, there is a wide variety in how the body uses antioxidants, and this can even change person to person.
Many people believe that if a food is high in antioxidants, it must be healthy. The metrics manufacturers use to show how many antioxidants are in their products are typically false. These antioxidants are tested in tubes, and how antioxidants react in tubes is much different than how they act in the body.
For this reason, the FDA shut down their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) values database because manufacturers were using the data incorrectly to try and sell products.
So, now we understand that antioxidants fight oxidiation, which is a result of free radicals. It is common to believe that antioxidants fight off all free radicals and that all free radicals are harmful. Research has found that you can have too little free radicals, and when that occurs, your body misses out on essential stress responses that may actually extend life. Basically, although you’re trying to fight free radicals, you still need some in order to maintain your health.
There will continue to be an ongoing back-and-forth debate about antioxidants, and maybe we will never fully understand their purpose and role in health. The bottom line is that like all things in life, you should only consume them in moderation. Therefore, you don’t have to spend all your savings on the richest antioxidant foods, potions, creams, and more products.