To understand antioxidants, we first have to talk about oxidants. This is an important topic for heart health and overall health. By clicking on the video above, you will see that oxidant atoms like to have a full outer shell of electrons. One of the reasons that oxidants in your body are unstable is because they have a missing electron. If you zoom in on a cell in your body, in this scenario it has a stable atom with no missing electrons. Since the oxidant wants to be stable, it can steal an electron from an atom in your cell. This is a normal process in your body, but when it happens frequently it can damage your cells.
Antioxidants are the repair mechanisms for the oxidants. Antioxidants have many roles, and one of them is to give electrons to unstable oxidants in your body. Antioxidants have many electrons to donate, thus can donate electrons to the oxidants to make them stable. That way the oxidants don’t damage your cells.
When you lead a healthy lifestyle, imagine a scale showing antioxidants greatly outweighing the oxidants. When you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, the oxidants outweigh the antioxidants. This is called oxidative stress. So increased oxidants and decreased antioxidants leads to oxidative stress. This can damage several cells, which can lead to illness and disease. In future posts, you will learn about what in your diet are major oxidants and antioxidants, so you can reduce oxidative stress.