Generally speaking, an antioxidant is something that works against oxidation.
For example, the oxidation in our bodies is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, leading to chain reactions that may damage body cells. Or with other words, oxygen is vital for our existence, but its highly reactive molecules also have the ability to damage our organs and systems.
And while our bodies have a natural mechanism to fight against oxidative damages, we better help out those antioxidant metabolites and enzymes.
There are two main types of antioxidants out there – industrial chemicals and natural chemicals, found in foods.
Industrial antioxidants do have diverse uses, for example, as food and cosmetics preservatives, yet according to various studies, dietary supplements do to not have much positive effect on health improvement and disease prevention and we better pack our diets with natural ones – vitamins A, C and E and enzymes that balance us from the inside.
Speaking of that, you should reconsider your blueberry and pomegranate juice intake. And raw nuts, definitely raw everything. Prolonged cooking is not antioxidants’ best friend. And in all fairness, it is all right to cook artichoke, cabbage, spinach, beetroot kale, beans etc. Yes, it is nowhere near pizza, but hey, remember the antioxidants! On the plus side – coffee and tea – now you feel way better about antioxidants. And we also have dark chocolate and red wine to welcome into the antioxidants’ heaven.
Coming to the word antioxidant, obviously the prefix anti- denotes that an antioxidant should, logically, work against an oxidant.
The word oxidant entered English circa 1800, as a loanword from French. And keep in mind, that oxygen was only ”discovered” in the 1770s and its name coined in 1778 by the French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier as a combination of two Greek words: oxy (acid), and gene (creates). Why acid? Because Lavoisier mistakenly believed that oxygen was a necessary component to making acids.
And the word antioxidant, as an agent which inhibits oxidation, appeared much later, in the 1920s.
The industrial revolution discovered the antioxidants’ role in the stabilisation of cracked gasolines.
And the 1950s saw antioxidants used as food preservatives, preserving food products from unpleasant odours and discolouration, in result of oxidation.
And while it is not exactly agreed upon who and when discovered the health benefits of natural antioxidants, and each antioxidant has its own unique history of discovery, the main known benefits of consuming antioxidants have been clearly spelled out as slower signs of aging, reduced cancer risk, detoxification support, and overall, a longer life span.