When you sustain an injury, the body responds with a host of biochemical processes that are at once reactive and attempt to repair the damage. One of the natural byproducts of injury is free radicals—rogue molecules which, left unchecked, can cause secondary harm to tissues around the original injury.
This is where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and slow or prevent the harm they can cause. Some antioxidants are produced by the body itself; the rest come from the foods we eat—mainly fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants can also be taken in supplemental form, a course of action that can help free-radical damage heal faster.
These top antioxidants can help minimize the harm free radicals cause after an injury.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to help people recover from surgery, injury, and ulcers. This vitamin helps tissue and bone grow and regenerate, aids healing immediately following acute injury, and supports healthy immune function. Research also suggests that vitamin C helps other antioxidants in the body regenerate.
Because vitamin C is water soluble, it is safe to take in large doses. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) established by the National Institutes of Health is 75 mg with a maximum upper limit of 2,000 mg.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant needed for the health and functioning of the skeleton, heart, and smooth muscle. It supports immune health, assists in the formation of red blood cells, and may also help prevent heart disease and cancer, and relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble compound that is stored in the body, so you don’t need to take large doses to stay healthy. The RDA is 15 mg with a maximum upper limit of 1,000 mg.
Beta-carotene is a carotenoid—a natural pigment responsible for the vibrant colors of some fruits and vegetables, such as those of carrots, pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes. Once ingested, beta-carotene has two functions in the body: it’s either converted into vitamin A or it acts as an antioxidant. Beta-carotene helps maintain healthy skin and eyes and can lower the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and other age-related diseases.
No RDA has been established for beta-carotene.
Selenium is a mineral found in soil, water, and some foods, including Brazil nuts, garlic, grains, and shellfish. In addition to its antioxidant properties, selenium helps support a strong immune system, regulates thyroid function, and may help reduce the risk of prostate and secondary cancers, cataracts, and heart disease. Selenium should be taken with vitamin E together to facilitate absorption.
The RDA is 55 mg with a maximum upper limit of 400 mg.
Know your dose
Please also note that there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to antioxidants. Studies have shown that antioxidants in high concentrations can actually increase one’s risk of serious disease such as cancer. So use moderation and consult your healthcare provider for the proper dose for your injury.