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.
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.
Free radicals are a byproduct of essential reactions in our bodies. External influences such as radiation, chemicals, and pollutants can also generate free radicals2.
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.
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!
Here are some antioxidant-packed foods to consider adding to your diet instead of!
Diet matters. Integrating antioxidants into your diet is a straightforward way to send your cells reinforcements and help them out on the longevity front.