There is a lot of talk these days about antioxidants in supplements. This begs the question, what role do antioxidants play in supplements? How do these vitamins and nutrients fit into a well-balanced daily diet that promotes health and wellness?
Antioxidants are intimately involved in the prevention of cellular damage within the body, which is a common pathway for things like the effects of aging and a variety of other ailments. The problem begins with free radicals. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that have an odd, or unpaired, number of electrons. They can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed, because of their unpaired number of electrons, these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, much like dominoes. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can cause when they react with important cellular components such as DNA or cell membranes. If this occurs, cells may function poorly or die.
Antioxidants are molecules that can safely interact with free radicals, and when they react with them, they terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. The body is equipped with several enzyme systems that are designed to seek out and stop free radicals, but these systems require vitamin antioxidants that the body cannot produce on its own, and must be supplied through diet. The most common antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and selenium. It is best to get your antioxidants from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and other antioxidant-containing foods. Many foods higher in antioxidants offer an array of health benefits, such as being high in fiber, protein and other vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. If your daily diet does not include sufficient amounts of these nutrients, then you may consider taking supplements that can supply them for you. Consult your doctor before using any dietary supplement.