What are Antioxidants

green and red healthy foodI had a friend call the other day and ask if they could just purchase the Chelated Minerals product alone?  The product we recommend consists of two bottles in one box. One labeled Chelated Minerals and the other Mega Antioxidant.  I asked why they didn’t need the Mega Antioxidant. He said that they’d been approached by a friend who was selling a product which was, they claimed, the most potent antioxidant available and he didn’t need any other antioxidants. So they decided to use this product for their antioxidants and just ours for the minerals.

The mistake that many make is thinking that an antioxidant is one thing. There are hundreds or thousands of different antioxidants.  Many common vitamins are potent antioxidants and also critical for life.

  • Take vitamin C, if your diet lacks vitamin C, you’ll develop scurvy.
  • Vitamin C is a very potent water soluble antioxidant.
  • Vitamin E is a very potent fat soluble antioxidant.
  • Beta Catoteen (a precursor of vitamin A), lycopene (from tomatoes), lutien, zeaxanthine, etc. are also antioxidants and each has an impact on different parts of the body. For sample the last two are predominantly found in the eyes and protect your eyes from oxidative damage from UV rays.
  • Many vitamins are antioxidants and essential for life – if you don’t get them you die. If you don’t get enough you get sick.  Ricks, scurvy, beri beri, plegura are all diseases of vitamin deficiency and they are antioxidants too.
  • Even minerals like Zinc can be antioxidants.

Many common foods also provide potent antioxidants:

  • Blueberries
  • Grapes and grape seeds
  • Red wine
  • Green Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Olives
  • Oranges
  • And just about every colored fruit and vegetable.

First though, lets understand what an antioxidant is – An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions. When the chain reaction occurs in a cell, it can cause damage or death to the cell. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions. They do this by being oxidized themselves, so antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols, ascorbic acid, or polyphenols.

An old car rusting or an apple turning brown are examples of oxidation.

To illustrate with a simple analogy look at your fireplace (a real wood burning one). The fire is very similar to what fuels your cells. Occasionally though the fire pops out a spark, when that lands on the carpet in front of the fireplace it makes a little burn mark. Over time the carpet becomes more burn marks than carpet. Each spark is in essence a free radical flying out of the fire and damaging the carpet. In your body though, those sparks damage cell membranes, DNA, turn harmless cholesterol sticky and make it bad, etc.  So an antioxidant is like putting a screen in front of the fire. It stopes the sparks from flying out of the fireplace and causing damage.

So back to my friend. He had been sold a product which had a single antioxidant in it, but it didn’t have any antioxidant vitamins, nor did it have a variety of antioxidants, just one. Sure it may be powerful, it may even be the most potent antioxidant there is, but it is only one. Your body needs dozes or hundreds of different antioxidants. Some are fat soluble, some are water soluble, some are also essential vitamins and minerals.  Some work in your eyes, some in your blood, others in the cell membranes and in your brain.

What was my advice? Yes, it may be a good antioxidant, but it doesn’t replace all antioxidants, so add it to a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, continue taking a multi with all the essentials vitamins and minerals.

Antioxidants are a huge market, walk down any grocery store aisle and you’ll see packages touting they are rich in antioxidants. There are dozens or hundreds of products being pushed on people that are supposedly the ultimate antioxidant. Even though the marketing claims that it is the most potent antioxidant product there is, it can’t replace the antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and foods rich in a multitude of antioxidants.

As a foot note, there are a couple of companies which use a device you put your finger in to supposedly measure the level of antioxidants in your body. Yes it does measure an antioxidant, it only measures the level of beta-caroteen in your skin. Beta-caroteen is just one antioxidant of hundreds or thousands, so it does indicate one measure, but far from conclusive – That is like gauging the mechanical health of your car by measuring the tread depth of just the right front tire.


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