The Benefits of Antioxidants - Blog
Antioxidants are chemical compounds that inhibit the process of oxidation. In the human body, antioxidants help to keep us healthy by protecting cells against free radicals, a by-product of oxidation.
Antioxidants are usually consumed through a healthy diet containing plenty of fruits and vegetables. Antioxidant-rich plant foods include:
- Grapes (in particular the skin of red grapes)
- Berries including mulberries and blueberries
- Nuts, particularly walnuts
- Leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, and kale
Dark chocolate and red wine are also commonly known for being rich in antioxidants. However, the amount of red wine one would have to consume in order to reach the recommended dose of resveratrol would be prohibitive. In general, a diet that includes a wide variety of plant-based foods will allow you to consume a healthy amount of antioxidants.
Importance of Antioxidants
Antioxidants play an important role in the body, by protecting cells against damage by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules which have an unpaired valence electron, meaning that they exist in a chemically unstable state. Antioxidants are able to neutralise free radicals by sacrificing some of their own valence electrons to the free radical, which then stabilises the radical.
In terms of measurable health outcomes, antioxidants can help to prevent disease. Observational studies have found that people who consume antioxidant-rich foods (mostly fruit and vegetables) have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. However, these effects may also be partially attributed to lifestyle, as observational studies do not control for confounding factors such as exercise and smoking.
Resveratrol is a naturally occurring antioxidant, commonly known for being found in red wine. Resveratrol is part of a group of naturally occurring compounds called polyphenols, which are known for being rich in antioxidants. As well as being present in red grape skins, it can also be found in grape seeds, blueberries, cacao, and peanuts.
Some research indicates that resveratrol may play a part in protecting against illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, and possibly even cancer. Antioxidants act as an anti-inflammatory and also help to lower LDL cholesterol, both of which lead to a reduced likelihood of heart disease. Resveratrol has been linked to an improvement in insulin sensitivity, and reduced insulin resistance, which may improve outcomes for a person with diabetes.
Resveratrol is hydrophobic and has poor water solubility, and therefore it is difficult to absorb into the body. This limited bioavailability may be a contributing factor when it comes to the controversy surrounding scientific studies of resveratrol.
Although we still need more research around the potential benefits of resveratrol, it is generally safe to consume in moderate doses and is thought to contribute to positive health outcomes and healthy ageing.
As well as occurring naturally in foods, resveratrol can also be purchased as a supplement, which usually comes as a capsule. Resveratrol supplements are usually made from natural ingredients by extracting the compound from a plant that contains high levels of resveratrol, for example red grape skins or Japanese knotweed.
Choosing Resveratrol Supplements
There are now hundreds of brands and options when it comes to choosing supplements, particularly when browsing online, which can be overwhelming. There is also considerable variation between certain aspects of the supplements. Look out for these things when deciding on which resveratrol supplement is right for you:
- Purity levels should be around 98%
- The product should use whole grape skins for maximum potency
- Trans-resveratrol is more biologically active than cis-resveratrol
- Look for a label that says “resveratrol” rather than “red wine complex”
- Most companies recommend at least 250mg daily, or 500mg for weight loss assistance
Potential side effects of resveratrol
Although resveratrol is not known for having adverse side effects, there may be risks involved for some people, as with consuming any supplement. Some possible side effects of resveratrol supplements can include nausea and abdominal pain.
If you are taking blood thinning medications or have an upcoming surgery you should avoid taking resveratrol supplements as resveratrol can slow blood clotting and interact with some medications.
Avoid taking resveratrol supplements if you are pregnant, as the potential effects have not been well studied.
If you are unsure about whether resveratrol supplements are safe for you, it’s safest to consult your doctor. If you are taking resveratrol supplements always use as directed.
About the Author
We use a variety of authors from both naturopathic and medical backgrounds. We also have in house researchers that compile the latest information into an easily digestible format.
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