It is a commonly known fact that plant foods like fruits and vegetables, and whole grains include many components that are beneficial to the human body and overall good health. One of the most common components found in these specific food groups are antioxidants. Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds that are found throughout nature that neutralize damaging agents called free radicals. Antioxidants are also highly recognized for their many other benefits including improving and maintaining health as well as treatment and prevention of several medical conditions, anti-aging properties, and defense against free radical damage and future prevention. Think of antioxidants as your bodies own military defense system set in place to defend against any foreign and enemy radicals.

People use antioxidants to help treat and cope with many things especially numerous medical conditions. Some of those conditions include coronary artery disease, some cancers, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s and some arthritis ailments. This is why supplementation of antioxidants is so beneficial to helping improve and maintain overall good health. Many health care specialists claim that the elderly, especially those with a reduced food intake, heavy drinkers, frequent aspirin users, smokers and individuals with immune issues benefit greatly by taking daily antioxidant supplements. There is research being done to prove that higher levels of antioxidants may aid in preventing certain life threatening disease such as cancer. Alongside their many health and nutritional benefits, they improve your immune system functions and lower your risk of infection.

Oxidation or the loss of an electron often produces reactive substances known as free radicals, which cause oxidative stress and damage to your cells. Free radicals can be produced when your body breaks down food, or because of environmental exposures to things such as radiation, ultraviolet rays and tobacco smoke. Antioxidants are naturally capable of stabilizing free radicals before they react and cause damage and harm to your body. Because oxidation is a natural process within your body, it is pertinent that you keep a healthy balance of antioxidants to counteract the effects of free radicals to maintain good health. Radicals are also involved with an increase in many degenerative diseases such as:

- Cancer
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Cognitive Impairment
- Alzheimer’s
- Immune Dysfunction
- Cataracts

Some other conditions like chronic diseases can also contribute to ill effects on one’s health. Free radicals are also the components to blame for skin damage and cancer to the early on-set of physical signs of aging. Think of antioxidants as nutrient scavengers on the hunt for cell damaging free radicals throughout your body, with a mission to detoxify and banish them and offset or neutralize the negative effects they have on your body.

While it is true that your body has its own defenses against oxidative stress, these defenses become less effective against free radicals as you begin to age and oxidative stress becomes greater. Research has suggested over the years that lack of antioxidant supplementation has helped aid free radical damage resulting in many degenerative diseases associated with aging. As well as an increase in many ailments, lack of antioxidants in the human body causes free radical damage to heighten and cause many negative physical changes to the skin, hair and nails. Antioxidants have plenty of studies and research done about them providing proof of their benefits. For instance, antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and Beta-Carotene have been shown to neutralize free radicals that can cause damage at the cellular level. Antioxidants can help so many with the aging process. Just by adding fruits and veggies or an antioxidant supplement alone to your diet will assist to improve your overall health.

Antioxidants are highly beneficial to those who supplement them into their diets. You can find antioxidants in many foods including:

- Fruits like acai, cherries, and many kinds of berries
- Vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes as well as green super foods
- Most Dark Chocolate
- Walnuts
- Artichoke Hearts
- Green and Black Teas

The most available sources of anti-oxidants are found in antioxidant supplements. By supplementing antioxidants, your body will also be provided with many necessary vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that some food sources cannot. By using an antioxidant supplement, no matter your age, your body will benefit from the many natural and positive benefits they have to offer. For instance, antioxidants are noted for controlling the amount of free radicals in your body and reducing the chances of cancer and heart related diseases later on in life.

For many years it appeared that anti-oxidants were practically the cure and answer for continued good health. Current studies have shown that the benefits provided by antioxidants though have many more complex positive effects on top of the answer to continued health. Research will continue to poor in and grow in regards to antioxidants and human health for many years to come. For now, we at least know that the consumption of antioxidants helps provide protection against oxidative damage and contribute to many positive health benefits in those who incorporate them into their diet thru food source or supplement. Being exposed to radicals is unavoidable, this is why including antioxidants into your diet is so beneficial. When it comes down to antioxidants, their properties and all of the positive effects they have on people, the question shouldn’t be whether or not they work, but why aren’t you taking them?

Author's Bio: 

Julie Riggs MED RD LD
Registered and Licensed Dietician

Julie Riggs has been teaching fitness and nutrition skills to every population, from NFL players to the elderly, pre and post-natal moms to professional bodybuilders for her entire career. As a writer and consultant for and as a registered dietician, personal trainer, and mom of three Julie brings real life perspective to the every day person's fitness and nutritional concerns.