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An antioxidant is any molecule that can be found in food, vitamins, or supplements that reduces the risk of cell damage. There are thousands of antioxidants out there, but most fall into one (or more) of three categories: Vitamin A & B (which are fat-soluble), Vitamin C (which is water-soluble), and flavonoids. Antioxidants can be found in virtually every fruit and vegetable; they also come in the form of supplements like vitamin C or E. The main function antioxidants serve is to “quench” free radicals – molecules that carry an unpaired electron. They do this by accepting the free radical’s electron to form a stable molecule. Free radicals are created when your cells burn energy through respiration; unfortunately, they don’t always accept back their electrons when they respire so some remain unpaired, resulting in free radicals which may lead to cell damage or even death if not stopped by an antioxidant.

Why Do We Need Antioxidants?

This section was written with my early-college readers in mind because I thought it would be helpful for them! Free radicals cause oxidation – this means that their unpaired electrons steal electrons from other molecules causing them to become unstable and oxidize as well. I take prenatal vitamins and I’ve heard of antioxidants, but I’m not sure how they work. The main reason we need to take in antioxidants is because the body cannot naturally produce all the vitamins and minerals needed to prevent free radicals from oxidizing our cells. The oxygen we breathe causes oxidative damage to our cells every day, so it is essential that we “protect” ourselves by eating a diet rich in antioxidants and taking supplements like vitamin C.

 

What happens if you don’t get enough Antioxidants?

 

You may be wondering: What could happen if you didn’t consume enough antioxidants? Well, your body will simply use what it has and keep trying to make more using its own natural processes. For example, if you don’t consume any vitamin E (an antioxidant) your body will make some on its own. But this process is much slower than the body actually getting the vitamin from a food source. One example of a disease that occurs when you don’t have enough antioxidants in your diet is cancer. Cancer cells have been shown to be dependent on free radicals in order to grow and spread – so if you don’t take care of your body by keeping it full of antioxidants, cancers will be more likely to form.

 

How Can You Get Enough Antioxidants?

 

In order for you to have an adequate amount of antioxidants in your diet, you must eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Remember The more colors and variety of your diet, the higher chance you have of getting the antioxidants your body needs! I’m a college student, so eating healthy food can be hard sometimes. Here are some ways to make sure you eat healthy even when it’s difficult:

Don’t Skip Breakfast – Food (especially fruits and vegetables) consumed first thing in the morning has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity which helps prevent diabetes!

Eat Lots Of Fruits – Fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries contain flavonoids that help prevent heart disease and stroke.

Don’t Drink Too Much (or any) Soda – Drinking soda will only give you tons of sugar which will increase your chances of diabetes.

Don’t Go Hungry – Eating small meals throughout the day will keep your blood sugar stable which results in fewer cravings for sweets or other unhealthy foods

Exercise Regularly – Exercise not only improves cardiovascular health but also stimulates neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons), both essential for learning as a college student!

 

I hope this post was helpful to those who were curious about what antioxidants are and why we should consume them.

 

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