From juice to tea to nutritional supplements, everybody seems to be singing the praises of antioxidants. And if everything being said it true, antioxidants may be the keys to living a longer and healthier life. So let’s take a moment to answer some of the questions you may have about how antioxidants work, their benefits, and how you can safely add more antioxidants to your daily nutrition plan.

What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that restrict the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical process that transfers electrons from one substance to an oxidizing agent, but in that process, free radicals are created, starting a chain reaction that damages cells. This cellular damage can cause premature aging and many undesirable health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic fatigue, cancer, depression and other physical and mental health maladies.

The human body requires oxidation and creates a certain number of free radicals on its own, whether it’s during the burning of sugar for energy or the use of enzymes for digesting. But free radicals are also introduced into the body through pollution and through poor health habits such as cigarette smoking, which speeds up the oxidation process and leads to the health conditions mentioned above.

Antioxidants help stop the chain reaction caused by oxidation by offering themselves as an oxidizing agent instead of healthy cells. But because oxidation is a necessary process to life, the goal is not to eliminate oxidants altogether, but rather to keep them in check and operating at an optimal level. The body does this naturally be maintaining various types of antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E, and enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase, and peroxidases.

What Are The Health Benefits of Antioxidants?
Antioxidants can restore normal cell functions to all parts of the body, meaning the health benefits are almost endless. A diet that is rich in antioxidants can produce minor health benefits such as reduced occurrences of colds and flu and can also impact the body’s ability to ward off heart disease, diabetes, wrinkles and the visible signs of aging.

When not under attack from free radicals, all cells in the body are able to function at optimal levels, meaning the body’s metabolism functions more efficiently which contributes to effective weight loss.

How Can I Eat More Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are found in many of the foods you probably already eat on a daily basis. Because food storage, food preparation and cooking exposes foods to oxygen, which can destroy the benefits of antioxidants, it’s best to eat these foods uncooked if possible, and as fresh as possible.

Foods that contain antioxidants include: citrus fruits (high concentration of Vitamin C); dark green vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach; eggs, but you need to eat the yolk to consume the lycopene, carotenes and lutein. Polyphenolic antioxidants known as reservatrol and flavoids are found in chocolate, tea (both black and green tea), coffee, red wine, cinnamon, soy, olive oil and oregano.

Should I Take Antioxidant Supplements?
While many health supplements are now marketed under the banner of “antioxidant support”, it has been suggested in recent years that large amounts of antioxidants can actually cause more health problems than they solve. It is also true that nutritional supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, meaning there may be limited or no research backing up the claims made by the manufacturer.

For these reasons, it is suggested by health specialists, including WebMD, that it is better to eat your antioxidants via a healthy daily diet of fruits and vegetables than to risk taking unresearched supplements.You should be fine adding a couple of cups of green tea to your diet, or enjoying a glass of wine red or a piece of dark chocolate, just don’t count on supplements to bail out a poor diet that is weak in overall nutrition.