The most frequently asked questions about antioxidant facts include:
I'll reveal the short-and-sweet answers to all these questions right here. If you want more information on a specific topic, you'll find links to additional pages that go into more detail.
Antioxidant Facts: What Are Antioxidants? Antioxidants are unique nutrient compounds obtained from certain foods, primarily fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants can be vitamins, minerals, or other phytochemicals (plant chemicals). Your body is also capable of producing antioxidant enzymes which work in conjunction with those you eat.
Antioxidant Facts: Antioxidants Help Keep You Young and Prevent Disease. Your body needs antioxidants to protect your cells from damage due to free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen molecules created as a normal byproduct of your metabolism; they are considered a primary cause of the aging process.
Protecting yourself against free radicals with antioxidants is the most effective way to reduce the risk of many health problems associated with aging, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, cataracts and macular degeneration, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and others.
A primary reason that humans have a much longer life expectancy than other animals is that we have extremely efficient antioxidant defense systems. The strength of your antioxidant defense system depends on several key factors:
1. Diet. You need to get a good supply of antioxidants from your diet, so it's important that you choose your foods with that in mind. In addition, antioxidant superfoods and supplements are an excellent way to complement the antioxidant foods you eat.
2. Antioxidant Enzymes. Our bodies produce several enzymes (including superoxide dismutase and glutathione) that provide antioxidant protection. In order to produce these enzymes, you need nutritional building blocks such as manganese, zinc, iron, copper and selenium from your food.
Two other important antioxidants are manufactured in your body: coenzyme Q-10 and lipoic acid. Typically, your body's production of these antioxidants begins to diminish as you get older, and mature adults tend to have very low levels. It's nearly impossible to get much of these from your diet.
3. Your Genes. Some of your body's ability to produce antioxidant enzymes is determined by the genes you inherited. They partially determine your chances of a long life and your susceptibility to disease. However, improving your diet can help overcome most genetic handicaps you might have. Inferior genes don't necessarily sentence you to a lifetime of poor health.
In the long run,
diet and lifestyle are the
most significant factors in determining your
health, much more so than your genes.
As you will discover throughout this website, there are several distinct families of antioxidants. Within each of those families, there are thousands more individual ones, many of them still undiscovered. They all have their own distinct roles in determining your health, and your body needs all the different types.
Antioxidant Facts: Antioxidants work best as a team. The antioxidant network could be compared to a football team. A football team has many different types of players, and each player has his own specific role. You need all the members to do their specialized jobs, in proper sequence. If you're missing the left guard or wide receiver, for example, the play won't work as well as it could. Every individual is important.
In the same way, you'll get better results with moderate amounts of many different antioxidants than you'd get using very large amounts of just one. That would be like fielding a football team using eleven quarterbacks — you wouldn't expect things to work as well.
Antioxidant Facts: Combinations of antioxidants work better. Every fruit and vegetable contains a wide variety of different antioxidants. These nutrients are designed by nature to work together in your body, and research studies have shown that antioxidants are much more powerful when they are consumed in combinations.
This also explains why research studies that isolate just one or two specific nutrients should be ignored. Nutrients just don't work in isolation, and can't be accurately evaluated that way.
Fruits and vegetables are the most common source of antioxidants. There are literally thousands of nutrients in fruits and vegetables categorized as phytochemicals, or phytonutrients, that contain powerful antioxidant properties.
Antioxidant Facts: A single fruit or vegetable contains many different phytonutrients. Some of them, like onions, have dozens of different antioxidant compounds, many of which have never been identified or isolated. This makes it important to eat as wide a variety of antioxidant-rich foods as possible, every day.
As I discuss specific categories of antioxidants elsewhere on this website, I'll reveal the foods that are the best source for each group, and even for specific antioxidants. You can also get a free, handy antioxidant food chart that has all the information in one place by subscribing to my mailing list.
Herbs and Spices.
An even more potent source of antioxidants are herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and many others. There's a reason why herbs and spices have been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has been noted that cultures where people consume lots of spices tend to have very low rates of degenerative diseases.
Fresh Juices and Smoothies.
A great way to pack a lot of antioxidants into one meal is by making fresh juices, or fruit and vegetable smoothies. There's an entire section of this website devoted to the art of making a smoothie. My page on how to make a smoothie the healthy way will help you get started.
Superfoods are specialized food products with an extremely high concentration of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Adding very small portions of these foods to your diet can increase your intake of antioxidants, even without altering the rest of your diet significantly.
Superfood products are so easy to add to your daily diet because the serving sizes are very small (usually about a tablespoon or two). At the same time, they contain the full spectrum of phytonutrients that are in the fresh source. There are many great reasons why you should use superfood products.
Some of the most popular foods used to create superfood products include:
Nuts, Roots and Seeds:
These superfoods are often combined with each other to make superfood products that pack in many times the nutritional content of ordinary fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidant supplements can be a very valuable addition to an already-healthy diet. They provide a way of getting even more benefits in three ways:
1. If you're trying to treat a certain health problem, for example, you may need amounts of a certain antioxidant that you can't get from food alone.
2. Some very powerful antioxidants can't be easily obtained in significant quantities from your food (such as coenzymeQ-10, pycnogenol, astaxanthin and lipoic acid).
3. Supplements can help you fill in the gaps in your diet. For example, let's say you don't eat much fish. You can still get all the same health benefits using omega 3 supplements. Taking lycopene supplements can give you powerful anti-cancer protection if you don't regularly eat cooked tomatoes, the only good source of lycopene.
Supplements aren't a substitute for a healthy diet, though! You still need to get plenty of antioxidants through your food, and a good variety as well. Remember, there are many phytonutrients that have not been as yet identified. These can't be gotten any other way than by eating fresh fruits, vegetables and superfoods.
Learn more about Antioxidant Supplements
Here are links to other pages for more of the basics on antioxidants:
Protect the Future of Your Food Supply