Antioxidants and what you should know about them

Antioxidants are essential. They can reduce damage by free radicals in your body and may lower your risk of disease. However in a high concentration antioxidants can be harmful. So as with everything else in a diet, balance and avoiding excessive consumption is key.

Using large amounts of individual antioxidants can be damaging. It can interfere with muscle growth, recovery and overall health.

Taking large amounts of individual antioxidants doesn’t quench free radicals. Instead, the antioxidants themselves turn into free radicals.

Stress, smoking, alcohol and pollution aren’t the major cause of free radicals. Eating processed foods is a far more common cause.

Antioxidant products like Pom Wonderful can bite you in the ass. You get nearly zero antioxidant benefit while the sugar itself causes a free radical tsunami.

In order for them to work, antioxidants must be taken the way nature intended. You need to ingest a wide variety from whole, minimally processed sources.

Free radicals – through pollution, sunlight, processed food, exercise or any one of hundreds of different ways – can be damaging but free radicals are also essential to human health.

Patrick Mustain, writing in Scientific American, came up with a great analogy about free radicals and antioxidants. Mustain wrote that free radicals are like your drama-queen friend who gets embarrassingly drunk at a party, stumbles into things, breaks them, and in general creates a huge mess. Antioxidants, though, are the sober, loyal friend who corrals the drunken free radical, calms it down, gives it some coffee, and if necessary, holds its hair back while it pukes.

In the body, this “drunken chaos” that the free radical might have caused manifests itself in the form of aging in general, heart disease, cancer, bad eyesight, bad hair and bad skin. Antioxidants can prevent much of this from occurring, but that’s not what’s happening, at least not the way we use them.

The right kind of free radicals, in the right amount, and at the right time, are crucial to human health. Immune cells use free radicals as weapons against bacterial invaders.

Exercise itself generates free radicals, but these free radicals instruct cells to make their own antioxidants, which appear to be responsible for a lot of the health benefits derived from exercise. However, a study from a 2014 edition of Nutrition and Food Science concluded that the wrong type of antioxidant supplements can “abolish the beneficial effects of exercise.”

The problem doesn’t have anything to do with antioxidants in general, but rather the use of large amounts of single, over-hyped antioxidants and not in combination with their brethren, as you’d normally do in getting your antioxidants via whole food sources.

The Right Way to Get Your Antioxidants is through foods that contain them: berries, oranges, broccoli, spinach, kale, apples, green tea, coffee, pomegranate… but antioxidants aren’t just in fruit and vegetables – everything from the plant kingdom is rich in antioxidants. Whether it’s beans, grains, seeds or nuts, they’re saturated with antioxidants. Even dairy and meat products, to a certain degree, contain antioxidants, depending on how much plant food was in the animals’ diets.

Stress, Smoking, and Pollution Aren’t Necessarily the Main Producers of Free Radicals. Almost everybody occasionally, if not regularly, eats processed food, which is arguably the worst generator of free radicals. Each and every bite is an assault on your health.

Quote of the week

If you are not obsessed with your life… change it!

I hope this article will encourage you to stop buying food labeled ‘Full of Antioxidants’.

Make your life easier and stick to whole foods.

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