What Do Antioxidants Do?
The primary job of antioxidants is to protect the body from being damaged by harmful molecules. The harmful molecules, in this case, are free radicals.
Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen and nitrogen molecules that are floating around the body with an unpaired electron. These oxidants, or free radicals, are reactive because they are searching for an electron to make into a pair. Electrons, like socks, are best when paired and become unstable when they're not (what does one even do with a single sock, anyway?)
Antioxidants get their name because they're quite literally fighting the oxidants. Antioxidants.
Why free radicals are dangerous and need to be fought
Free radicals cause damage to lipids, protein, and the body's DNA. They've also been linked to a host of diseases including cancer, atherosclerosis, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, free radicals are involved in the development of over 50 diseases.
Where do these free radicals come from?
Free radicals are naturally occurring as well as artificially made. These oxidant molecules are natural by-products of our body's metabolic processes but can also come from outside sources such as smoking, pollution, or alcohol. In essence, there's simply no avoiding free radicals. So, what's to be done?
Up your antioxidants!
Antioxidants can be found in a myriad of places including vitamins (C, E, and A to be specific), minerals (selenium is one), and fruits and vegetables. The type of antioxidant found in produce is called a flavonoid. Flavonoids are the reason that red wine, chocolate, turmeric, blueberries, and acai are touted as wonderful health foods.