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Antioxidants 101

Antioxidants 101

Why Are Antioxidants Important?

Antioxidants are nutrients and phytochemicals help to neutralize cellular damage in the body, which is the root of aging and chronic disease and dysfunction.

Think of rust formation, browning of an apple or avocado, what happens when you add lemon or lime juice? (less browning due to the antioxidant active especially of vitamin C within those citrus juices). The same process happens within our bodies at a microscopic level.

Think of free radicals AKA reactive oxygen species (ROS) as such - without too much chemistry, they are substances that are missing an electron due to dealing with the sources listed below. They will do anything to get it back and so they go around our bodies, knocking into healthy cells trying to “steal” electrons from healthy cells (which in turn can damage the cells and even our DNA in the process)

Then antioxidants save the day because they have electrons to freely give to these free radicals to neutralize them and return balance!

This analogy essentially explains a key, zoomed-out underlying process of oxidative stress, or aging of our cells, and the effect of antioxidant activity.

What are the sources of oxidative stress

  • Mental/emotional stress
  • Obesity
  • High sugar, processed foods, inflammatory fats
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Radiation from the sun or occupational exposure
  • Pollution
  • Certain medications
  • Pesticide residues
  • Exposure to certain plastics and chemicals like BPA
  • Lack of exercise; too much exercise

What does oxidation lead to on a zoomed out level and how does it affect our health?

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Aging
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation
  • Virtually any condition you can think of

Common foods and nutrient sources of antioxidants + tips

  • Think your vitamins and plant-based chemicals - vitamin C, E, A, glutathione, selenium, and quercetin to name a few
  • Food Groups laden with antioxidants - Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices
  • General rule of thumb - Try to eat a serving of each of the colors of the rainbow daily (mostly vegetables, some fruit)
  • Fun Fact - Foods with the highest antioxidant count (Turmeric and acai berries are high on the list!)
  • ORAC Value introduction - standardized measurement of the antioxidant effect of certain foods
  • Supplementation options - Great to focus on a blend of antioxidants rather than a single source to maximize their effectiveness and variety of actions for each phytonutrient
  • Another fun fact about Cielo product if desired - antioxidant synergy when combining certain ingredients (There is a multiplier effect on the ORAC value when Quercetin, Grape Seed Extract, and Pomegranate are taken together.) Cite research or graphic if desired.

Other ways to reduce oxidative stress

  • Decrease exposure to stressors
  • Reduce exposure to pollutants, sub damage, processed foods, stressful work environments and social situations
  • Increase resilience to mental, physical, and emotional stressors
  • Practices such as meditation, mindfulness, breathing, yoga
  • Regular exercise appropriate to your exercise tolerance and progressive as you build physical resilience
  • Improve antioxidant capacity and intake
  • Food first
  • Consider supplementation


About the Author

Dr. Kenny Mittelstadt, DACM, DC, L.Ac., Dipl.OM.

Kenny Mittelstadt is a functional health practitioner and acupuncturist based in San Antonio, Texas. He is trained through the Institute for Functional Medicine and received both of his doctorate degrees with highest honors from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He focuses on empowering patients through wellness education and root-cause healing – transforming health through personalized, lab-based functional medicine programs!


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