The constant interaction of the human body, or any other living cells occurring in other plants and animals, with the environment triggers oxygenation; and since oxygen is essential to life, the human body continually generates by-products of oxygen commonly called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS); in common parlance, this is called free radicals. This explains why a cut on the skin becomes inflamed, or why an apple slice changes to brown or grey colour quickly.
The process of oxidation is very crucial to one’s health since its aftermath acts as an essential stress response to inform the body of lapses in the system. Be that as it may, free radicals, if not kept in check, have the tendency of damaging healthy fat cells which houses membranes that surround the body cells. In other words, free radicals are also atoms which are incomplete, unpaired, or have an odd number of electrons looking for complete atoms to ‘steal electrons from.’They can easily form when oxygen interacts with certain molecules in the system.
It is the rapid chain reaction which free radicals get into that makes them deadly and very potent in the destruction of healthy cells. If not minimized and checked on time with proper antioxidants, these free radicals attack cell membranes and important cellular components like DNA, breaking the sequence and causing the body to be diseased.
Sadly, the body can produce only a little resistance to this process, the antioxidants which are supposed to scavenge, fight these free radicals, and stop them from spreading to other cells and tissues are so limited in the body that external ingestion is required. Though there are many types of antioxidants, the primary ones are micronutrients commonly found in Vitamin A, C, E, and beta-carotene. Selenium is also another very important antioxidant source necessary for proper scavenging of the free radicals. All these can be found in natural foods that humans consume and some dietary supplements too.
Antioxidants reduce cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, protects against heart disease and stroke, reduces the risk of all types of cancer, slows the progression of Alzheimer’s, suppresses tumour growth, detoxifies carcinogens, protects the eyes from macular degeneration as the body ages, defends the body from pollutants, and protects against COPD (pulmonary disease) as well as major cardiovascular diseases.
These wonderful friends of nature, antioxidants, can be ingested through the consumption of legumes, fruits, egg yolks, fish oil, green tea, soybeans, etc. Though, necessary to stop free radicals from damaging the body system and eventually leading to diseases, Vitamin A and E becomes counterproductive if too much is ingested from dietary supplements as organist from natural sources. This is even more crucial in people who smoke cigarettes and engage in the consumption of high quantities of alcohol, and other such vices. On the other hand, healthy consumption of organic and herbal foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide high levels of antioxidants which are safe for the body.
A lot of research is still ongoing to decipher more of the magic of antioxidants and how they keep humans alive, strong, and healthy.