Antioxidants – Can They Help Your Cat Stay Healthy?
Most of us have heard of antioxidants. But how many of us actually know what antioxidants are, and what they do?
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In a nutshell, antioxidants neutralize free radicals. OK, next question: what’s a free radical?
We’ll have to go back to high school chemistry to answer this one. Molecules of different substances form compounds by sharing electrons. When a compound breaks down, the individual molecules have an electrical charge. If the molecule is lacking an electron or two, it has a positive charge. If it has an extra electron, it has a negative charge.
Free radicals are molecules with extra electrons. The process by which free radicals are formed is called oxidation. Antioxidants prevent oxidation from happening.
Are All Free Radicals Bad?
Not really. Some free radicals are formed when food is broken down during digestion. Others are formed when your cat exercises. Some of these free radicals are necessary for your kitty’s body to work properly. But too many can cause problems, including cancer, strokes, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis and other joint problems.
Most people are familiar with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene. These antioxidants work directly to stop too many free radicals from forming. There are also indirect antioxidants, which work by encouraging your cat’s body to be healthier through a process called hormesis.
What Is Hormesis?
The easiest way to describe it is by thinking about exercise. When your cat is running around playing, she’s stressing her body. But this is a good stress that helps her to be healthier by keeping her fit and increasing her endurance. An antioxidant that works by using hormesis causes a mild stress to your cat’s body that helps her to stay healthy.
Many indirect antioxidants that work through the process of hormesis are found in fruits, veggies, and herbs.
Hormesis also stimulates your cat’s body to produce its own antioxidants, as well as encouraging her body to detoxify itself. There are many other beneficial bodily processes that are helped along by hormesis. These processes help keep your cat healthy naturally.
Which Herbs and Foods Contain Antioxidants That Work Through Hormesis?
- Ashwagandha – can lower your kitty’s chances of getting cancer. Also has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
- Bacopa – stimulates your cat’s body to produce its own antioxidants, especially catalase, which prevents seizures, and can help your cat to live longer.
- Blueberry –may lower the risk of various cancers and reduce inflammation.
- Bilberry – has anti-cancer activity and helps support a healthy heart.
- Broccoli – has shown strong anti-cancer activity, and boosts the immune system.
- Green Tea – helps with energy, aids the immune system, and lowers the chance of cancer, heart disease and type II diabetes.
- Milk Thistle – helps with liver function and detoxification processes.
- Quercetin – has shown anti-cancer qualities, has potent anti-inflammatory activity, helps conserve Vitamin C, and helps relieve allergic symptoms.
- Resveratrol – can help prevent cancer and type II diabetes.
- Turmeric root (curcumin) – strong anti-inflammatory effects, and may help prevent some of the effects of aging.
If you’re thinking about an antioxidant supplement, be sure to look for one made especially for pets. This way you’ll be sure your cat is getting the right dose. It’s also important that the supplement contains ingredients which are safe for cats. And while many antioxidants contain vitamins A, C, and E, be sure to choose one that has at least a few of the indirect antioxidants listed above.
Feeding your cat a healthy diet is the best way to ensure that she’ll age gracefully, with as few health problems as possible!