What are Antioxidants and Free Radicals Anyway?

Posted by Brenda Smit-James on

We hear a lot about antioxidants. We know that they are good for us, but what are antioxidants and free radicals anyway?

Woman washing face

Let us start with answering the question: what are free radicals?

That will lead to understanding how oxidative stress works and, in turn, how antioxidants work.

What are free radicals?

The term, free radicals, is used to refer to cells in our bodies that are damaged – and become unstable – from contributing factors such as stress, pollution, smoking and other environmental factors. Damage to the cell occurs when one of those contributing factors removes an electron from an atom of the molecule that makes up the cell. This damage is called oxidation.

Once damaged, these free radical cells, are on the lookout for another electron with which to balance itself and will steal it from a neighboring atom or cell, which in turn will steal from another and so on and so forth. The more your body is exposed to contributing factors, the more free radicalizing and stealing your cells must contend with. This imbalance between healthy and unhealthy free radical cells is called oxidative stress.

The good news is that your body can handle free radicals, and the resulting oxidative stress, when it has antioxidants available. Antioxidants are called antioxidants because they work anti/against the oxidation of the cells. They do this by providing the unstable cells, the free radical cells, with one of its own electrons which makes the cell whole again. Antioxidants stabilize the cell and neutralize the need to steal an electron from another cell. This gives us healthy cells. Our job then is to equip our bodies to fight toxins and free radicals by providing them with the antioxidants required to repair damaged cells and neutralize free radical behavior.

Skin cell molecule

Where do we get those amazing antioxidants?

It is quite simple. There are three ways to access the antioxidants we need: drink them, apply them topically, and eat them.

  1. Rooibos tea is packed with antioxidants and is an excellent way to provide your body with the antioxidants it needs to work against oxidation and creates healthy skin from the inside.
  2. Apply antioxidants topically through your skincare line. In that regard, the Annique skincare products which contain extracts of Rooibos are the perfect fit. Antioxidants in a skincare line will help to slow the aging process and contribute to healthy skin.
  3. But you can also eat your antioxidants when you consume these antioxidant rich foods:

    Purple or red grapes


    Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries


    Green Vegetables:

    Artichokes, broccoli, kale and spinach

    Red Vegetables:

    Beets and red cabbage

    Orange Vegetables:

    Acorn and butternut squash

    Carrots and sweet potatoes

    Other Sources



    Yummy dark chocolate

To summarize:

Oxidation creates free radical cells which creates an imbalance in the body called oxidative stress. Antioxidants are required by the body to heal the free radical cells, thereby reducing oxidative stress, and restoring balance and health to the body.

This what we can all do to reduce oxidation:

  • Reduce and manage the stress in your life.
  • Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke.
  • Avoid pesticides and herbicides as much as you can.
  • Try to have as clean air as possible.

And this how we provide our bodies with antioxidants to heal free radical cells:

Remember, when iron oxidizes it rusts, when your cells oxidize you age and can become ill.

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