“Antioxidants” have become a buzzword in the health food community. Touted as the key to resisting aging, countering cancer, and preserving overall health, antioxidants seem to be a magic solution to all the health threats of our modern age. But how do they work? And how do different nutrients support health throughout the body?
How it Works
The reason that antioxidants are such powerful nutrients is that they counter free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that have an unstable charge, having lost an electron. Because of their charge, free radicals pirate electrons they need from other atoms in order to regain stability. This can actually cause a chain reaction throughout sections of the body, threatening the body’s defence systems. Exposure to toxins can promote the presence of free radicals in the body, including air pollution, cigarette smoke, high alcohol intake, and high-sugar intake or a diet high in polyunsaturated fats.
Antioxidants counteract free radicals in the body because they can give electrons to free radicals without become unstable themselves.
Sources of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are found in various food sources, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Certain superfoods like goji berries or blueberries are often touted as the best resources for antioxidants, but the truth is that matcha tea leaves every other superfood in the dust when it comes to antioxidant count. That being said, different antioxidants have different functions and target different areas of the body, so a balanced diet of a wide variety of nutrients is always the best approach. Some of the antioxidants featured in matcha tea are as follows:
EGCG (or epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is one of the superstars of the antioxidant community. Studies have found that it has the power to counteract tumor growth, promote neuron generation in the brain, and even prevent heart disease. Matcha tea has a higher concentration of EGCG than any other food.
Most studies about catechins have been inconclusive. However, one study in China found that men who consumed tea containing catechins were half as likely to develop stomach cancer. In the lab, analysis under a microscope has shown that catechins impede the growth of cancer cells.
Polyphenols are an especially interesting nutrient because they counter some of the most common health risks in the western world, including cardiovascular health. Polyphenols inhibit platelet aggregation in the veins that contributes to sudden strokes and heart attack. Polyphenols also help to regulate gut health, promoting beneficial bacteria that help us properly digest foods.
Chlorophyll is probably best known as the cause of green pigmentation in plants which allows them to absorb energy from sunlight. In humans, chlorophyll helps bolster the health and production of red blood cells, which are the core of the immune system. Chlorophyll is also believed to block carcinogens, lowering cancer risk throughout the body.