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Antioxidants are the body's primary defense against the effects of free radicals, protecting the body from cellular damage.

What Antioxidants Does For The Body

First and foremost, antioxidants protect the body from free radicals - toxins that weaken cells in the body and cause cancer and heart disease. They also boost your immune system, protect your memory, protect your joints, reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, and strengthen blood vessels.

Vitamin A keeps bones and eyes healthy (think of the reminder for children to "eat their carrots," an excellent source of Vitamin A). Vitamin C promotes collagen production beneath the skin, delaying the formation of wrinkles and facilitating the growth of healthy skin cells.

Another effective antioxidant is Vitamin E -your skin's biggest protector. Vitamin E helps heal sunburns, improve blood flow and stimulate hair growth.

What happens if you don't have enough antioxidants: You need to maintain a certain level of antioxidants in the body to ward off free radicals. When there are too few antioxidants, these harmful cells may be free to attack and damage healthier ones. This puts you at greater risk for heart disease and cancer, among other ailments.

What happens if you have too much: While antioxidants are touted for their ability to fight harmful free radicals, there are certain kinds of oxidants - consider them "pro"-oxidants - that your body needs.

Consuming too many antioxidants may actually deplete your body of these good oxidants, resulting in restricted blood vessels, shortness of breath and stiff muscles. (This is more common as you age.) More specifically, too much of the antioxidant vitamin C can cause digestion issues, heartburn, abdominal cramping, headache, insomnia and kidney stones.

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