The prefix ‘anti’ means against, in opposition to, or corrective in nature. In this case,
the ‘anti’ in antioxidant describes the effect these chemicals have against oxidants.
Oxidants, usually referred to as ‘free radicals’ are produced as a natural by-product
of the millions of biochemical processes undertaken by the body every minute. The
same life-giving oxygen that supports all the functions of the body creates these
harmful by-products which cause cell damage, usually to DNA, fats and proteins.
Free radicals also enter the body through external influences such as exposure to
the sun, pesticides and other kinds of environmental pollution. In addition, their
levels are increased by mental and physical stress, the consumption of alcoholic
beverages, unhealthy foods, and cigarette smoke.
In much the same way as oxidation causes rust on cars, oxidation inside the body
causes a breakdown of cells. If the amount of free radical oxidation in the body is
allowed to rise to an unhealthy level, it can result in extensive damage to cellular
components and can accelerate the ageing process.
More importantly, it may contribute to a wide range of degenerative illnesses and
reduce the body’s ability to deal with other problems, including cardiovascular
malfunction, eye disease, and cancer.
Additionally, it may result in a compromised immune system, leading to
immunological disorders and a lessening of the body’s ability to heal wounds and
overcome infections. Some studies indicate possible links to arthritis and similar
Antioxidants counter these effects by binding with free radicals before they can
cause damage. They then convert them into non-damaging biochemical
substances, assisting enormously with the reparation of cellular damage.
Certain antioxidant enzymes are produced within the body. The most well known
of these are catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione:
Catalase converts hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.
Superoxide dismutase breaks antioxidants down into hydrogen peroxide.
Glutathione is a detoxifying agent, changing the form of toxins so that they are
easily eliminated by the body.
Other antioxidants can be consumed through the diet. Some of the better known
include the antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Minerals such as selenium, zinc, glutathione and co-enzyme Q10 may also have
antioxidant properties, and so may flavonoids such as cranberry, some amino acids,
plus organic extracts from milk thistle and the tree known as ginkgo biloba.
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables provides a large supply of these
antioxidants, to help eliminate damaging free radicals. The highest concentrations
are found in fruits and leafy green vegetables, such as carrots, orange and red
peppers, spinach and tomatoes.
Cooking can destroy some antioxidants and interfere with the body’s ability to
absorb them, so eating raw vegetables and fruit, and including sprouts in the diet
can help. Steaming vegetables as opposed to frying, microwaving or boiling is also
a good idea.
Antioxidants are best taken in combination, since single antioxidants, such as
vitamin E, need other vitamins in order to work as an effective antioxidant. Food
and natural supplements may therefore provide the most bioavailable source of
antioxidants. Natural products from the rainforests of the world are some of the
best sources of natural antioxidants ever found. Fruits like the acai berry are
amazing in the health world because of the wide range and high number of
antioxidants they contain, making them a perfect source of antioxidants. It’s no
wonder that the acai berry has been dubbed one of the top 10 “superfoods” in the
world. To read more about the marvelous acai berry and other natural
rainforest health products visit