By now you’ve heard about the green tea’s antioxidant abilities, and how the quality of this antioxidant helps fight against dangerous diseases like cancer and heart disease. But what is an antioxidant? And why would anything that’s anti-oxygen be good for you or for your bodies health?
Antioxidants themselves don’t do anything to oxygen. What they do, do is fight a chemical reaction in your body called oxidation. I am sure your saying right now, wait a second – that’s what causes metal to rust – I am not made of metal! Your right to say that but oxidation is the interaction between oxygen molecules and the substances they come in contact with. If this just so happens to be living tissue, then that’s when disease occurs.
The harm caused by oxidation, is result of free radicals, highly reactive, unstable molecules that travel around the body wreaking havoc. Although free radicals can be generated by exposure to UV rays, toxins, cigarette smoke, microbes and other sources, the most common source is the oxygen molecule itself.
Oxygen typically travels throughout the body in pairs, and these two molecules share electrons. But sometimes this double molecule splits into two separate oxygen molecules called singlet oxygen. When this happens, there are no longer enough electrons to go around, so each oxygen molecule ends up one electron short. This destabilizes the molecule, in a sense throwing it off balance. In order too stabilize itself, it races off throughout the body in search of another electron.
The single molecule does not just sit around waiting for another electron to become available, what this little bugger does is it goes around and find ones to steal. So what happens to the molecule that just had it’s electron stolen, well, it goes and steals it’s own from another molecule. This process of stealing back and forth causes damage to the cells and it often though to be a leading contributor to cancer, heart disease and aging.
Now, this is where having antioxidants come into play. What antioxidants do is donate an electron to the lonely free radicals so they no longer have to steel electrons to feel balanced. Your body does produce antioxidants on its own, but not early enough to aid all the free radicals. That’s where green tea can help you a lot,
Among others, these include beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, the mineral selenium, and various phytochemicals such as lycopene and quercetin. But the catechins, especially EGCg, are among the most powerful and effective antioxidants of all.