FOXO Life

Antioxidant: The Free Radical Scavengers That Keep Us Young

July 25, 2022

When shopping at your local Whole Foods, there’s always a juice or a wine that claims to be a good source of antioxidants. But what even are antioxidants and what are they doing in your wine?

Antioxidants are a family of molecules that act as our first line of defense against aging. They protect cells from damage at the hands of free radicals.

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are unstable molecules missing an electron. These electron-deficient molecules want to be stable, so they try to steal electrons from others. This sneaky stealing process is called oxidation. When a free radical oxidizes an unsuspecting molecule, it damages its structure, rendering it dysfunctional1

This reaction not only damages the victim molecule it also leaves it electron-deficient. This turns it into a free radical. That’s how free radicals bring about chain reactions of oxidation; by the end, multiple molecules and cells are left damaged and defective1.

What Creates Free Radicals?

Free radicals are a byproduct of essential reactions in our bodies. External influences such as radiation, chemicals, and pollutants can also generate free radicals2.

How Do Free Radicals Accelerate Aging?

Free radicals put oxidative stress on our cells, especially on cellular DNA. During their search for an extra electron, free radicals steal electrons from DNA molecules. This triggers a series of breakages which lead to genomic instability and epigenetic alterations ––two of the nine hallmarks of aging3.

When free radicals oxidize DNA, it leads to structural damage. There are reparation pathways that replace damaged DNA molecules, but these pathways get less effective with age. Eventually, these breaks start to accumulate, resulting in genomic instability4. Even when our cells manage to repair the DNA molecule, they often get the gene expression wrong. A gene that was previously active can be left dormant post-repair. This is referred to as epigenetic alteration5.

How Do Antioxidants Help?

Antioxidants are the Yin to the free radical’s Yang. Free radicals are missing an electron while antioxidants have an electron to spare! As electron-donors, antioxidants can neutralize the free radicals without turning into free radicals themselves5.

That’s how antioxidants defend our bodies against oxidative stress and damage!

Antioxidants to Integrate Into Your Diet?

Here are some antioxidant-packed foods to consider adding to your diet instead of!

  1. 1. Dark chocolate
  2. 2. Lentils and beans
  3. 3. Nuts such as pecans
  4. 4. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and goji berries6.

Diet matters. Integrating antioxidants into your diet is a straightforward way to send your cells reinforcements and help them out on the longevity front.

Takeaways.

  • Free radicals are unstable molecules missing an electron.
  • Free radicals try to stabilize by stealing electrons from others; this is called oxidation. It not only damages the victim molecule but turns it into a free radical as well, bringing about a chain reaction of oxidation.
  • As electron-donors, antioxidants are able to neutralize the free radicals without turning into  free radicals themselves.
  • Try integrating dark chocolate, lentils, beans, nuts and berries into your diet to naturally boost your antioxidant levels!

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