Antioxidants are substances produced in the body and found in foods. They curb damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules with missing electrons thus making them unstable and highly reactive. Through a process call oxidation, they react and damage other cells; turning them into newly formed free radicals. This process then repeats to form a chain reaction.
We are often exposed to free radicals at any point of time! Our body produces free radicals through processes such as metabolism, however we are a lot more exposed to free radicals as a result of UV rays, chemicals in pesticides and cleaning agents, cigarette smoke, pollution and radiation. Excessive exposure to free radicals (termed as oxidative stress) can damage our cells and its DNA, sparking health issues such as degenerative diseases, heart diseases, premature ageing, and even cancer.
Good news is that antioxidants are electron donors. By donating its electrons to the free radical, this free radical is stabilised and stops causing further damage. Although our body can produce antioxidants such as glutathione, it might not be sufficient to counteract the amount of free radicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. Therefore fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrains are another source of antioxidant we can turn to. Ideally, we should be consuming two servings of fruits, two servings of vegetables and plenty of wholegrains from staples such as wholemeal or multigrain bread, brown rice and wholewheat noodles or crackers. However with our busy and modern lifestyle with most meals eaten outside, it is often very challenging for us to achieve the recommended amonts of these antioxidant-rich foods.