Antioxidants : Not Just A Buzzword!
Dr. Renuka Dangare

Dr. Renuka Dangare

Feb 27General wellness

Antioxidants : Not Just A Buzzword!

This article is compiled by Sanjana Varma, a freelance writer of Proactive For Her.

What are antioxidants?

Our body’s cells face formidable threats like lack of food and infection with a virus. The biggest threat comes from chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals are the byproducts of food converted into energy. When there is a high level of free radicals in the body, they may damage cells and genetic materials. At very high levels, they are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. Free radicals can be created as a result of exercise or exposure to cigarette smoke/air pollution and sunlight.

Free radicals are capable of changing the instructions coded within a strand of DNA. It can even alter a cell’s membrane, changing the flow of what enters and exits the cell. An excessive chronic amount of free radicals in the body causes a condition called oxidative stress, which may damage cells and lead to chronic diseases.

List of essential antioxidants

There are hundreds of different substances that can act as antioxidants. The most familiar ones are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other related carotenoids, along with the minerals selenium and manganese. Most are naturally occurring, and their presence in food is likely to prevent oxidation or to serve as a natural defence against the local environment.

What Are The Benefits Of Antioxidants?

Studies as early as the 1990s found that free radicals are responsible for the early stages of artery-clogging, cancer, vision loss and other chronic conditions. Antioxidants, according to scientists, may help fight this condition.

Antioxidants play an important role in a healthy body. Let’s take a look at some of its functions.

1. Increase In Fertility

Studies have shown that regular intake of antioxidant- rich foods can benefit fertility. Recurrent pregnancy loss, high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia), spontaneous abortions and in rarest of cases fetal death are all related to excessive oxidative stress on our bodies. Antioxidants help in minimizing the likelihood of these complications.

2. Prevent PCOS & Insulin Resistance

Antioxidants can help lower the problems of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome(PCOS). It can help in lowering the inflammation of the ovaries and enhance your reproductive health. Antioxidant supplementation was shown to improve ovulation which is the main problem in PCOS patients. Antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, zinc, and selenium can improve fertility.

The use of antioxidants as an additional mode of therapy in PCOS has attracted lots of interest. Some characteristics of PCOS such as obesity and deposition of excess belly fat, androgen excess, that manifests as acne and hirsutism, and insulin resistance can all significantly increase oxidative stress in these patients .

PCOS is a condition with significant decrease in serum antioxidant and vitamin levels. Oxidative stress and antioxidant decrease may lead these women to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance that manifests as type 2 diabetes in later life,, high blood pressure, central obesity, and a poor lipid profile on laboratory testing.

Antioxidant supplementation has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and other health threatening conditions in women with PCOS

3. Treat Urinary Tract Infection & Promote Kidney Health

Urinary tract infection can lead to oxidative stress and depletion of antioxidant enzymes. Polyphenols, another class of antioxidants rich in berries and other fruits, are known to fight UTIs. These compounds reduce oxidative stress and inflammation and help bind iron in the urine, preventing it from fueling bacterial growth.

Oxidative stress, in part, plays a role in major renal injuries. Supplementing antibiotics in a UTI with plenty of antioxidant rich foods or supplements can reduce any long term damage to your kidneys and help recover faster from urinary infections.

Antioxidant supplementation can slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease. Antioxidants can be particularly beneficial for anyone on dialysis. The role of the kidney in our body is of great importance as it deals with removing waste products that are harmful to the body.

4. Skin Care - Treat Acne & Delay Ageing

Free radicals can promote inflammation, which is one of the common drivers for acne and other inflammatory skin conditions (e.g. eczema, dermatitis). As antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, they can help reduce inflammation and prevent and treat acne. They also protect the skin by preventing toxins from penetrating the skin.

Antioxidants are known to reverse the effects of skin ageing symptoms and help in the rejuvenation of the cells.

Vitamins C and E are two such antioxidants that can fight acne by preventing the resultant inflammation. Vitamin E also promotes skin repair and healing, thereby treating acne scars. Other important antioxidants for preventing and treating acne include selenium and zinc.

5. Strengthen Hair

Fried foods, alcohol, smoke and tobacco products, pesticides and air pollutants are just some of the factors in our day to day life that may cause oxidative damage to our hair. Antioxidant supplements can prevent such damage,improve hair health and treat nutritional deficiencies that can compromise the health of your hair. They also help to improve the hair growth and minimise any further damage to delicate hair follicles by maintaining the collagen in the body or the connective tissues of hair follicles. They also protect the scalp cells by boosting blood and nutrient supply to them ultimately promote healthy hair growth.

Antioxidants fight sun damage and protect your cuticles. They also prevent any premature graying of hair and reduce any excessive frizziness in hair.

6. Curb The Effects Of Menopause

As the body ages, antioxidant levels decline, leaving the human body susceptible to a variety of age-related diseases, such as non-alcoholic liver cirrhosis, atherosclerotic heart disease and osteoporosis. This decline is due to the gradual loss of estrogen in the female reproductive system and the loss of antioxidants as a result of this. The gradual reduction in estrogen has been shown to increase levels of oxidative stress in the body. Eating wholesome foods rich in antioxidants may help you control the effects of menopause.

Heart health is affected by the decline of estrogen during menopause. Vitamin C, E, selenium, copper, and zinc have powerful cardioprotective activity. It’s been found that adequate vitamin C intake can cut the risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent. Including fresh fruits and vegetables may protect your heart health as they are loaded with antioxidants.

7. Cancer Prevention

Antioxidants prevent free radical damage, the primary cause of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, even dietary antioxidant supplements can aid cancer treatment due to their ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Breast cancer and endometrial cancer affects many women nowadays. Its effects can be minimised by fortifying your antioxidant level. Antioxidants level may go down during the treatment which can lead to ineffective treatment. Antioxidant supplementation can help the treatment process.

8. Improves Cognitive Health

Antioxidants were found to improve memory and reduce the risk of dementia. Vitamins C and E, selenium, and zinc have been shown to function as natural “antidepressants”. e Antioxidants also promote the blood flow to the brain, enhancing oxygen and nutrient supply to the neurons (brain cells). Greater consumption of carotenoids from foods such as sweet potatoes, yams, and carrots was linked to cognitive benefits in adults.

9. Aids Arthritis Treatment

Antioxidant intervention can improve the clinical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and offer relief. This can be attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of antioxidants.

10. Improve Vision

High dose antioxidant vitamins can prevent the progression of and even reverse age-related vision issues. The American Optometric Association states that antioxidant supplements vitamins C and E can reduce cataract progression in less than three years. Vitamin A nourishes and protects the retina and other eye structures. It plays an important role in the prevention of night blindness.

11. Enhance Immunity

Consuming more fruits and vegetables is one sure shot way to boost your immunity. Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and carotenoids boost immune health. They also help treat other issues related to weak immunity like colds and bronchial infections.

Antioxidant-rich food items

Antioxidants are available as tablets and supplements. The easy way to include them is by consuming whole foods rich in antioxidants. Common antioxidants and how to include them are given below:


Vitamin C

  • Cauliflower
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers (all colours)


  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Mangos
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Watermelon


  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Barley
  • Brown rice


  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Oysters and shrimp
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chickpeas 
  • Lentils 
  • Cashews

Phenolic compounds

  • Apples
  • Red wine
  • Onions
  • Tea 
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Peanuts
  • Spices

The Bottom Line

A healthy diet is always good for our body and mental health. It is the easiest and most beneficial defence mechanism of our body. Additionally, antioxidants help to heal the wear and tear of muscles from workouts. It is beneficial for smokers to supplement their body with antioxidants to iron out the effects of oxidative stress.

You can consume antioxidants from various sources of food and even have them in the form of supplements. But it is always advised to have them in the form of whole food. So go ahead, eat healthily and nourish your body.

This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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