Why Do We Need Antioxidants Anyway?

By September 21, 2016Food, Health, Healthy Living

Bubbles representing antioxidants floating in liquidWelcome to the third in an ongoing series on health and health myths. You can catch up on the first two pieces, 3 Wildly Popular Health Myths—That Aren’t True” and “Dietary Fat: Friend or Foe to Our Health”, to see what you’ve missed so far. When I asked if anyone had any health topics they’re curious to know more about, several people did. My friend Roslyn Tanner Evans asked, “What the Heck Are Antioxidants?” So, here goes…

Maybe you’ve heard the term antioxidants mentioned online, on television or even on product packages claiming to be good for you because they are rich in them. Have you ever wondered what exactly they are? The simplest way to explain it is that antioxidants fight against oxidative stress and the formation of free radicals in your body. Antioxidants help you maintain cellular health.

What Are Free-Radicals?

So maybe you’re now asking what free radicals are? You might already know that all living organisms use oxygen to metabolize and use dietary nutrients to produce energy for survival. As a vital component for living, oxygen is a key player in chemical reactions that metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to produce that energy.

Even though oxygen is one of the most essential components for life, it has another less positive side. Oxygen can be a highly reactive atom that is capable of becoming part of potentially damaging molecules commonly called “free radicals.”

Free Radicals and Disease

Once formed, free radicals are capable of attacking our body’s healthy cells. Guess what happens next? Yes…it can lead to cell damage and eventually disease. Cell damage caused by free radicals is believed to contribute to the aging process and growing rates of diseases like:

  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Decline in Brain Function (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease)
  • Compromised Immune System

To date, free radicals have already been linked to the development of at least 50 diseases! See why we really need antioxidants to keep us healthy?

Antioxidants Are Like Superheroes

Antioxidants are like superheroes, as they’re the compounds which can inhibit oxidation in both the body and in foods. What exactly is oxidation? Simply put, oxidation is a chemical process which involves the transfer of electrons or hydrogen-producing harmful free radicals in the body.

Ever watched the food you buy go bad after a short length of time? That’s oxidation. It’s why antioxidants are often used in food manufacturing to slow down this process. If you’re like me, maybe you’re thinking this is probably a key reason to eat fresh vs. processed foods whenever possible.

Then there are the external factors we’re subjected to like cigarette smoke, air pollution and excessive alcohol consumption. All of these can lead to the production of free radicals, making them equally as harmful to us. Antioxidants to the rescue! They are our best line of defense to help stop the damage done by free radicals. This means they may play a major role in reducing our risk of disease.

Antioxidants in FoodsPlate of colourful food filled with antioxidants

Some common antioxidants include specific vitamins, flavonoids and polyphenols. For example, vitamin C works to stop the oxidative chain reaction before it starts and vitamin E breaks the chain further along. Flavonoids and polyphenols are also common antioxidants, with different forms of them found in a variety of plant-based foods.

For all of us, it’s wise to aim to get as many antioxidants as we can from our diet. Foods naturally high in antioxidants come mainly from the fruit, vegetable and legume families. Berries contain the highest amount of antioxidants for fruit. In particular blueberries, cranberries and blackberries. Artichokes are a good source from the vegetable familyRed beans and pinto beans are the highest in antioxidants of the legumes.

Antioxidant Vitamins C and ELemon slices rich in antioxidants and vitamin C

Antioxidant water-soluble vitamin C is commonly found in fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits. Beta-carotene, which is required to make the antioxidant Vitamin A in the body, is found in vegetables that are green and leafy or yellow and orange in color. Make sense why we’re advised to make sure our plates contain a rainbow of colours each meal?

Fat soluble vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, wheat germ, high-quality vegetable oils and whole grains. Flavones are a type of polyphenol antioxidant found in berries and tea. Carotenoids include the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene and are found in a variety of vegetables.

In the previous piece, we looked at the importance of dietary fats to our health. As it turns out, a diet low in fats may impair absorption of beta-carotene, vitamin E and other fat-soluble nutrients. One more reason to make sure your diet is rich in high-quality fats if you want to be your healthiest.

Not All Antioxidants Are Created Equal

No question it’s important to make the effort to eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods. But do you know that there is a difference between dietary antioxidants and endogenous antioxidants?

Dietary, or exogenous antioxidants, come from your external environment. The other—endogenous—is a more powerful free radical fighter produced inside your body. In fact, the antioxidants our body produces are 100 times more powerful at fighting free radicals than those we get from food!

So how do we stimulate the production of more of those in our body? This has been a missing piece of the puzzle. We’ve known how to nourish and protect cells, but not how to renew them. Until now.

Breakthrough in Cellular Nutrition

Enter an exciting new breakthrough in cellular renewal from USANA called InCelligence technology. It’s a revolutionary scientific advancement that taps into your body’s innate wisdom to heal itself. And to make more of its own antioxidants, which is exactly what we want!

It allows more free radicals to be neutralized so the body doesn’t break down as quickly. It also signals your cells so they can renew their aging mitochondria. I can hear you asking, “What exactly are mitochondria?”

The mitochondria are where all of our energy is made. When mitochondria age they make less energy (ATP) and more free radicals. The InCelligence technology signals the cell to repair and renew the mitochondria so they can go back to making more energy! Sound interesting?

If you’ve got a minute, this video explains more…

“The science of InCelligence has been made possible because of insights gained from recent advances in our understanding of genetics, cell signaling, and molecular biology. And it is an exciting new platform that enables USANA scientists to create products with a laser-like focus on certain processes within the cell and helps those processes to work even better.”

What Health Topics Are You Curious About?

There’s so much to share about the importance of antioxidants to our health. There just might be another post coming soon. Several people have asked about curcumin, so I’ll be sharing a post about it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties soon too. Someone else was curious about our metabolism and aging.

Having had health issues that I’ve transformed in my own life, I’m committed to sharing information to support others to live their most vital and healthy selves. Do you have health goals you’re committed to reaching? You’re invited to a complimentary health consultation where we’ll work together to design your personalized health plan! You can start with the USANA True Health Assessment or just email me to set up a time to talk! To your health…

p.s. Please let me know if there are any other health topics you’re curious about.

Beverley Golden

About Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden is a writer, storyteller, peacenik and health & vitality consultant, who loves testing unconventional ways to shift paradigms in the playing fields of health and wellness, storytelling and creativity as a path to world peace. Her passion is turning the “impossible” into the possible, using her own experiences with a lifetime of health issues, to inspire and support others to live their life to the fullest.

You're invited to a Complimentary Health Consultation, starting with the True Health Assessment that offers a customized personalized snapshot of how healthy you are in the areas of lifestyle, heredity and nutrition. Contact me to get started!

48 Comments

  • Thank you for this explanation of antioxidants, Beverley. I really enjoyed this thorough article. I’ve been much more health conscious the last year and I’m always looking for ways to improve my overall health. Thanks for sharing this valuable info.

    • Thanks so much Tandy! Happy to hear you are making your health a priority in your life and that you found some helpful information in this piece of anti-oxidants. They are so key to our overall efforts to stay healthy!

  • Tricia says:

    This was very informative. It is very important to understand the importance of antioxidants in our health. I have had some health issues that have made me look for a more holistic approach to healing. I drink lime juice with slices of ginger almost daily. I see this series that you are sharing is so proactive for all of us. Thanks

    • My sense is there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation when it comes to health, our diet and especially the role of antioxidants, Tricia. So often, our learning comes from our own health issues and our desire to be more conscious of the foods we eat and the lifestyle choices we make. The lime mice with ginger sounds really interesting and how happy you have found ways to makes changes that contribute to your overall health and wellbeing! It’s been fun doing the research and sharing my own health journey in this series too!

  • Suzie Cheel says:

    Great information Beverley, I know i am always conscious after my auto immune system went rogue the importance of balance in ones diet and that antioxidants are so important .
    I find if i stay alkaline i am in balance too xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Discover Inner Peace Now: Listen To The Whispers Of Your HeartMy Profile

    • It’s wonderful that you are now conscious of your immune system and the importance of diet, especially how antioxidants impact you, Suzie. So often we have a personal health issue that almost asks us to become more conscious, which is a harder way to learn. It’s great that you know yourself well enough to stay alkaline and feel the difference for yourself. Be well.. xo

  • Very informative article Beverley! With so many conflicting claims about vitamins – take them, don’t take them – it’s really helpful to have a balanced view of what does and doesn’t matter. Thank you!
    Marquita Herald recently posted…Your Story Is Not YouMy Profile

    • Thanks so much, Marquita! I agree that there is so much information available and much of it contradicts each other. I appreciate hearing that you found this piece offered a balanced view of what does and doesn’t matter!

  • Joyce Hansen says:

    Beverley, its’ great how you turned this into a series. This piece of antioxidants is very informative. I was not aware there was a difference between endogenous antioxidants and exogenous antioxidants. and how significant the difference is. Sounds like USANA is a leader in this technology. Will have to learn more about it.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Security Messages Your Brain IgnoresMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Joyce! I really appreciate hearing that you have enjoyed the health series. Antioxidants are widely misunderstood, so I am happy you found this piece informative. Up until now, we have been focused on getting our antioxidants from foods and supplements. With USANA’s new breakthrough, it revolutionizes how our body has the ability to create their own endogenous antioxidants. If you’d like more info or would like to talk, please let me know.

  • Karen Grosz says:

    Thanks for your detailed explanation of antioxidants. That word gets thrown around, but I am finding that many people really don’t understand it. Our bodies need the ability to fight off and repair oxidative stress and we need to feed it what it needs in order to do that.
    Karen Grosz recently posted…Quality Sleep – Drinking This Could Help You Sleep PeacefullyMy Profile

    • Thanks Karen! Yes, many of the terms that get bandied around about health and things that are healthy for us, aren’t fully understood by many people. Antioxidants, free radicals and oxidation seem to be three of them. Yes, we do need to feed our bodies what we need, however, the ultimate is when our body can do the world itself. That is what USANA has just unlocked the code for when it comes to endogenous antioxidants. Breakthrough and revolutionary for the future of nutritional science!

  • I learned a lot about the antioxidant properties of healthy dark chocolates while working with a client, helping her build her websites and kick off her social media. The goods news: I loved her chocolates and felt very healthy while consuming them. 🙂

  • Hi Beverley,

    Wonderful post on why we need antioxidants 🙂 I always knew that they were good for us, but after reading your post, I am SURE of it! Very interesting facts and information on the importance of antioxidants in our diets. In my own diet I have been leaning toward more “whole” foods instead of the “processed” foods….though so many of those “processed” foods are fast and easy and more enticing, but not that good to put in our bodies if we want to be healthy 🙂

    Awesome share!! Have buffered for you as more people need to know!
    Joan M Harrington recently posted…What Your Local Supermarket Can Teach You About Strategic Upselling PsychologyMy Profile

    • So happy to hear that you are leaning more towards whole foods and are being more conscious for yourself and proactive with your health, Joan. Yes, the processed foods can be enticing, however, I’ve learned that once our palate changes, we actually ‘crave’ the healthy foods. I know you are very committed to improving your health, so if I can support you in any way, please let me know. Thanks for sharing so others can get the inside scoop on anti-oxidants too! 🙂

  • Julia says:

    Brilliantly researched and well-explained as always Beverley, thank you so much. Having never seen, never mind eaten, an artichoke; and not being a regular consumer of any of the other foods mentioned I think this is something I could be more conscious about.

    • Thanks so much for your support of my writing, Julia! I appreciate it. So happy that you also got introduced to some new ideas and new foods that might benefit you on your own health journey! Look forward to hearing if you enjoy them, once you try them too!

  • Antioxidants are important for maintaining good health and for mitigating the damage done to our health by the pollution in our environment, Beverley. Thank you for a post that explains it in the simplest manner possible. I hope lots of people read this post and benefit.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…Want that promotion? Better raise your Executive PresenceMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Vatsala! I do appreciate hearing that you and others, found that I was able to explain about anti-oxidants and free radicals in an understandable manner. Anti-oxidants are so key to our health, that I also hope many people get to benefit from the info in this post.

  • Teresa Salhi says:

    Thank you for this information Beverley. It can be confusing out there what is what when it comes to healthy needs. I know you are always sharing consistent and valuable wellness advice and enjoy learning from you.
    Teresa Salhi recently posted…Stop Tolerating What You Don’t WantMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your support, Teresa! I really appreciate hearing that you find what I share both consistent and valuable and that you enjoy learning new things from my articles! Yes, it can be confusing out there, as there is so much conflicting info. And maybe we’ve created a world where everyone is an expert, or at least believes they are.

  • Natasha Botkin says:

    These are super important! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. As a cancer survivor, I know all to well what it is like to be ill and battle to survive. So, I know all to well the importance of taking care of ourselves with healthy antioxidants. xoxo

    • The key to overcoming any disease, Natasha, is to make sure we are proactive and making wise choices for ourselves. Congratulations on doing that for yourself! Anti-oxidants can be the key to turning an unhealthy cell into a healthier one and it sounds like you know that all to well! Stay healthy! xo

  • I love this, great compilation (as usual). I’m a kombucha brewer and drinker (because duh why else would I brew it?) and they say that kombucha has a ton of antioxidants among other salutary effects.

    I love the quote about eating and that you’re either fighting disease or feeding it. Pretty much informs 90% of my eating decisions (not including the gluten-free deep-fried fritter I shared with a friend last night!).

    Will share this. Thanks.
    Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest) recently posted…Increase visibility — step out from behind your mask and be seenMy Profile

    • Love your attitude and your passion for the things you love, Sue! Happy to hear you are so proactive and conscious of the choices you make for yourself. That gluten-free deep-fried fritter sounds kind of interesting. I am sure you both enjoyed it enormously! And of course your kombucha tea, which is high in anti-oxidants too! Thanks for sharing too.

  • Some topics I just can’t focus on and nutritional ingredients & scientific stuff are in that category. I knew when I asked you to explain anti oxidants that you would do an outstanding job talking in a language I could understand. In all honesty, I will have to read this several times to really get it, but it is proof of your ability to write. I’m glad we talked about the value of writing a health series.

    • I am happy this post was relatively easy to understand, Roslyn. My sense is when someone doesn’t have a particular interest in something, it isn’t as imperative for them to absorb the info. This is a big topic, as being able to produce our own anti-oxidants is a big breakthrough for all of us and our health! I appreciate your suggestion to start a health series and of course, you ongoing support of my writing abilities.

  • As always, a very informative post Beverley.

    You did not talk about skin in this post but I suddenly had a big skin irritation this summer. With some work, I discovered the source of my irritation came for a new skin product that I was using every day. Many commercial lotions contain harsh chemicals that worsen our symptoms. I was told to try raw coconut oil. Coconut oil is loaded with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories that heal, protect, and nourish sensitive skin. Awaiting a good outcome 🙂
    Rachel Lavern recently posted…How You Sabotage Your BusinessMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your support, Rachel! Yes, skin is the largest organ in our body, so what you put on your body and what you put in your body will impact your skin. It’s great that you are trying something as clean as raw coconut oil, as it is very healthy and is both anti-inflammatory and also has anti-oxidant properties. I’ll be curious to hear how it ultimately works for you…good luck! Here’s to good outcomes. 🙂

  • So interesting.. in my networking group… there is someone who sells Asea… which is supposed to help with redoxsignaling molecules or something like that… but basically helps with the cells.. and regenerating them or curing them.
    Kristen Wilson recently posted…SEO Tips to Help You Understand & Utilize for your BizMy Profile

    • There have been many companies doing researching on cell signaling and cell repair, Kristen, so I am not surprised to hear there are some other products who have unlocked some of the puzzle pieces. However, USANA, being a leader in nutritional science now for more than 24 years, has actually cracked the code and this breakthrough will change the way many other companies develop their products too. However, this is patent pending technology, so USANA has done it again!

  • Alene A Geed says:

    I have heard about blueberries being a natural antioxidant but was never clear on what that really meant. Now I have a better feel for this topic. I love your analogy of Super Heroes.

    • Yes, blueberries are one of my favorites and it’s great that they are high in antioxidants, Alene. Meaning they are good for your health and or course the cleaner the source of blueberries, the better. Glad you enjoyed the Super Heroes analogy. It just came to me and seemed to really fit!

  • Tamuria says:

    I knew antioxidants were good but I never really understood what they did so this post was especially interesting for me Beverley.I hadn’t heard of mitochondria before. USANA’s breakthrough in cellular renewal sounds amazing.
    Tamuria recently posted…HOW TO MAKE A COLLAGE TO TEACH ABOUT A BUTTERFLY’S TRANSFORMATIONMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Tami! I really appreciate hearing that this article helped unexplained what antioxidants do and that you found it interesting! The mitochondria are the energy producers in our bodies, so what USANA has discovered, is definitely considered game-changing science! It is indeed a wonderful breakthrough in cell renewal!

  • Blueberries are my favorite. I have to have it almost everyday. Does frozen berries have the same about of benefits as fresh berries?
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Greek Breakfast Wrap – Freezer FriendlyMy Profile

    • I was eating fresh organic blueberries daily as well, Sabrina, and then the source has dried up over the last few weeks. If blueberries are flash-frozen the benefits are more likely to remain. My guess would be that fresh, still trumps frozen if at all possible.

  • Reba Linker says:

    This is one of the best and clearest explanations of antioxidants and free radicals that I have ever come across, Beverley! Looking forward to the next installments in this series!
    Reba Linker recently posted…What’s Right for YOU?My Profile

    • Thanks so much for your kind comment, Reba! Happy that this piece on antioxidants and free radicals explained clearly what they are and how they work in our body! Looking forward to sharing more health info with everyone too, so I am happy you are looking forward to it!

  • This is so timely for me. I’m working with my nutritionist and cardiologist to achieve some new health goals. We’re really looking at the high quality antioxidants AND antiinflammatory products that could help my heart health. I’ll be tuning in for the next article too!
    Jennifer Quisenberry recently posted…Why Read Harry Potter?My Profile

    • Sounds like you are on a great track to health, Jennifer and that your nutritionist and cardiologist are offering you sound direction. Yes, to having both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory stimulating products in your protocol. Wishing you well in your journey to improve your heart health! Hopefully you’re including a product like CoQuinone which is designed specifically to support heart health.

  • Lori English says:

    Beverley,
    This article was very inspiring and truly was packed with a lot of information about healthy living. It’s important and definitely agree with you Health is number one having health issues myself. I liked the part in the article about Antioxidants and as I get older I see how important it is to focus on what my specific needs are for my body type .

    • I think for all of us who have health issues, Lori, we know how key it is to be proactive and put our health first. Yes, there is a lot of misunderstanding about antioxidants and yet when we see how important they are, they end up being crucial to our health. Happy to hear you are focusing on what works for you and what your body needs.

  • This sounds extremely important and I can’t wait to learn more. We all rush around and don’t spend near enough time considering what on earth we are consuming and how we are taking care of our bodies or are not taking care of them…or is that just me?
    Renee groskreutz recently posted…Stop Agonizing Over The Rules And Try SomethingMy Profile

    • My sense is in our world which is moving increasingly faster, so many people might think they are looking after their health, yet there are areas they could always do better, Renee. I don’t think you are alone. It is becoming increasingly important to be as proactive as possible, as we cannot rely on our environment and our food supply alone anymore. Happy explorations with your health!

  • So very true, Beverley! I once thought I could get all my antioxidants from foods, but of course, with the way fruits and vegetables are grown, picked early, transported, not stored well, we know that the nutritional content of them goes way down.
    Interestingly, I just edited a book by a physician about supplements, which was fascinating. He goes deeply into scientific studies that prove what each supplement can actually do. In short–they work!
    Love the USANA ones!
    Susan Mary Malone recently posted…Have You Ever Had A Character Steal Your Heart?My Profile

    • This is definitely a fascinating conversation for us all, Susan! We all want to stay healthy and yet there is so much information to sift through to find the truth for ourselves. The book you edited sounds fascinating and how amazing to be able to learn, as you are working! Yes, the science is there and USANA has always come from a place of science first. This new InCelligence breakthrough puts them miles ahead of the field once again. So happy you are loving the ones you are taking too!

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