The Power of Antioxidants

Author – Jordan Rubin

While they may not have known exactly what antioxidants were, our Biblical ancestors made a habit of eating them regularly. Smart move.

Did you know that some protective effects of foods high in vitamins are contained in those foods’ antioxidant properties? And while that may be interesting news, some of you may be asking what antioxidants are—let alone what they do.

Glad you asked!

Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules capable of damaging cells and tissue and antioxidants fight against free radicals continually–since free radicals are continually formed in the body.

Free radicals are increased by injury, stress, pollution, and illness and since their discovery, they have been implicated as major players in ill health–as well as accelerating the aging process. But here’s the bottom line: the more free radicals are formed, the more antioxidants are needed to neutralize them.

In the fight against free radicals, many people want to know more about antioxidants and their health benefits. Some sports enthusiasts are interested in antioxidants because of their tendency to overexert while training—which can increase free radicals. And did you know that as we age, we require more antioxidants? Living in polluted environments increases the need for antioxidants as well. You may not know that beta-carotene and selenium (in addition to vitamins C and E) are examples of powerful antioxidants. And since no single antioxidant can destroy all the free radicals in the body, using them in combination increases their effectiveness.

Speaking of effectiveness, did you know that there have been values assigned to foods that are most effective in fighting free radicals? It’s true and it’s called ORAC. ORAC values refer to the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of a food, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and tests the ability of foods and other compounds to subdue oxygen free radicals.

Here’s the good news: You can increase your body’s ability to defend against free radicals by eating a diet high in antioxidants—foods high on the ORAC scale.