Antioxidants have recently emerged as the latest buzzword in the health and wellness communities around the world. It has been claimed by many experts that antioxidants can be extremely helpful for fighting health conditions such as aging, heart diseases, cancer, and many others. Recent clinical studies have also revealed their role in improving mental health by helping overcome depression and anxiety.
Understanding Antioxidants and their Function:
Before discussing antioxidants, we first need to have some basic idea about oxidation and free radicals. Free radicals are unpaired electron bearing oxygen molecules in the form of single atoms created because of splitting. Due to the presence of unpaired electrons, they always look for other electrons and tend to destroy cells and DNA.
Some free radicals are found even in healthy human bodies. The damage caused by them is healed naturally by the body. However, the natural healing process of the body gets overwhelmed in the presence of too many free radicals. When free radicals build up in the body, it is commonly referred to as oxidative stress, a leading factor behind health deterioration and diseases. Some of the common consequences of oxidative stress include depression, mental stress, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, organ breakdown, memory loss, and even cancer.
Antioxidants play a critical role in fighting free radicals by providing them the electrons they require. Free radicals are created every day in the human body. Therefore, in order to keep the system in balance, it is important to consume antioxidants.
According to popular health supplement company C60 Purple Power, 8,000 to 11,000 units of antioxidants are required every day for the proper functioning of the human body. However, unfortunately, most Americans don’t consume even half the required amount.
Antioxidants and Mental Health:
There is growing scientific evidence suggesting that the development of depression and anxiety may be the result of an imbalance between the antioxidant defense system and oxidative stress. Many researchers believe that anxiety is correlated with a state of lowered total antioxidants. Therefore, it is possible to ease anxiety disorder symptoms by consuming foods rich in antioxidants.
The idea behind this thought is that antioxidants can provide protection against the brain’s neuronal damage by eliminating free radicals and suppressing the pathways of oxidative stress. Theoretically, this results in remission of anxiety symptoms and depression.
In a recent study, it was found that the levels of vitamins A, C, and E were significantly lower in people with anxiety disorder and depression. A significant reduction in anxiety and depression was noticed when following dietary supplementation of vitamins for 6 weeks. In the group of depressed patients, a rise in the level of antioxidants in the blood was also observed after 6 weeks. This clearly indicates that antioxidant supplement therapy is useful for people suffering from stress-induced mental illness.
It is also worth noting that when antioxidants are consumed through food, a healthy microbiome is essential for their absorption. Moreover, oxidative stress is one of the foremost factors that cause inflammatory responses. It has been observed that oxidative stress and immune system activation are momentary under normal physiological status. However, under certain states of chronic disease, both of these systems tend to remain active for longer periods. This may increase the risk of diseases as well as their severity over a period of time. Experimental animal studies suggest that the elevated activation of inflammatory pathways is also observed in major depression and anxiety disorder sufferers.
Antioxidant Sources for Improved Mental Health:
Tomatoes: health-protective antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene are found in abundance in tomato.
Bell Peppers: Offers several health benefits because it is a rich source of vitamin C and various carotenoids.
Brazil Nuts: One of the richest dietary sources of selenium, an essential mineral antioxidant with numerous health benefits.
Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and blackberries are packed with antioxidants such as ellagic acid, anthocyanins, and resveratrol.
Spices: Turmeric and ginger have excellent antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties.
Finally, it is important to note that it is not clear whether antioxidants can be a potent standalone treatment for improving mental health. However, it is already proven that when it is used in tandem with other treatment therapies, it does offer noteworthy benefits.