One of the byproducts of cellular metabolism is the creation of "free radicals". Free radicals are unstable electrons which can cause a chain reaction of cell- damaging effects within the body. Free radicals come from food, toxins in the environment, and from natural cellular processes and are linked to most diseases but particularly to cancer and heart disease, two of the biggest killers.
"Antioxidants" help us to stay healthy by preventing the damage of free radicals.
The best antioxidants can be found in fruits and vegetables, particularly green vegetables and berries.
Some powerful antioxidants found in food are as follows:
*Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
My suggestion, which I learned from Dr. Andrew Weil, is to supplement the antioxidants Vitamin C or ALA at times of high stress or potentially unhealthy behaviors- a lack of sleep, overindulgence in alcohol, sickness, air pollution, or eating red meat or fried foods.
For example, the next time you eat a steak, ribs, or fried food, try supplementing with some Vitamin C to limit the potential free radical damage. Some of the other antioxidants could have potential downsides with supplementation so I would be cautious about taking them without the proper research.
I personally like ALA and take it from time to time when feeling extra- stressed, tired, or when eating more BBQ or red meat than usual. From what I know thus far, it is a beneficial and safe antioxidant.
Remember, it's always best to try to get your vitamins from food, not from supplements.