Difference Between Antioxidants and Antibodies

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Background concept word cloud illustration of antioxidants. Photo: Bigstock

Let’s start by stating that both antioxidants and antibodies are essential ingredients in keeping you healthy. But with that said, what exactly are the differences between the two?

Many people are not aware of what the differences are but they are quite substantial, but with that said, there are numerous similarities between the two as well.

They both protect your body from disease and illness and are necessary for maintaining good health, but that’s about where the similarities end. 

This article will explore some of the main points about what antioxidants and antibodies are, what role they play in your body, and how you can increase your intake of each to maintain optimal health.

What are Antioxidants?

Fresh Berries in a bowl
Blueberries have great antioxidant properties. Photo by Brandon Wilson on Unsplash

Enter Free Radicals – The Bad Guys

These are compounds found in foods that are designed to prevent oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is the process by which free radicals can run amok in your body and damage healthy cells.

What Do Free Radicals Do?

Free radicals are atoms that are missing an electron and by so doing, they look for other cells’ atoms to which they can attach so that they can steal that cell’s electron. This is a common occurrence in nature when atoms have missing electrons. They need to balance out their electron count. When they find a healthy cell to attach to, they will merge with it, subsequently changing the characteristics of that cell to the point where the healthy properties of those cells are diminished or non-existent.

When this happens and too many damaged cells exist, it could result in your body becoming a risk for such diseases as cancer and heart disease as well as many other illnesses. 

Seniors playing chess
Oxidative stress occurs during a normal day of activity, even when you are at rest. Photo by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash

These bad guys are created during our normal lifestyle, which includes simply breathing and eating. In other words, oxidation builds up during daily metabolism – the energy that you exert daily.

Antioxidants – The Good Guys

Antioxidants are the free radicals’ worst enemy. They are molecules that will donate an electron to the free radical making it useless in damaging other cells. 

Antioxidants are naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Some of the best foods for fighting off free radicals are berries, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and tomatoes, but don’t stop there. Just about all fruits and vegetables will help build antioxidants.

They can also be found in smaller amounts in grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. The best-known antioxidants in vitamins are C and E, and beta-carotene.

When you eat foods that contain antioxidants, they enter your bloodstream and then proceed to neutralize the free radicals before they cause damage. This means that antioxidants can prevent oxidative damage and this is why antioxidants are so beneficial to your health.

Fruits and vegetables are your best fight against oxidative stress.

What are Antibodies?

Microscopic view of the COVID virus
Microscopic view of the COVID virus spike protein. The spikes are what attack the healthy cells unless blocked by antibodies. Photo: Pixabay

Antibodies are quite different in properties from antioxidants. Antibodies Are proteins. Proteins are molecules. Antioxidants are not proteins. Antibodies contain chains of amino acids which are naturally produced by your immune system when an infection is detected. They can recognize and identify harmful agents like bacteria, viruses, and other foreign agents. That is why you hear so much about antibodies regarding Covid but you don’t hear anything about antioxidants.

Antibodies are created by your white blood cells, called B cells, and bind to the glycoproteins – the enemy of antibodies, similar to how free radicals are the enemy of antioxidants. Glycoproteins are the carbohydrate portion of proteins that are found in bacteria and viruses. Once the antibodies bind to these bad proteins, they neutralize and remove them from the body before they have a chance to cause harm.

For Covid, the antibodies block the virus cells, called spike proteins from attacking healthy cells.

Your body will create antibodies when foreign agents such as a virus are detected, but vaccines can be injected to further the creation of antibodies if needed.

The Difference in a Nutshell

Antioxidants and antibodies are both designed to protect against disease and boost immunity. However, there are differences between antioxidants and antibodies that are worth noting.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that prevent oxidative damage. They don’t directly fight infections. They don’t recognize harmful bacteria and viruses.

Antioxidants also don’t circulate in the blood, as antibodies do. They are found in food, and can’t be detected in your blood. This means that antioxidants don’t boost immunity the way antibodies do.

What antioxidants do is help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals? These attacked cells can add up causing your body to become at risk of several dangerous diseases.

Antibodies detect harmful bacteria and viruses. They are created by our white blood cells and circulate through our blood vessels and look for bad proteins from bacteria. Once found, they block these bad proteins from attacking healthy cells.

More About Antioxidants

Illustration of how Antioxidant Works Against Free Radicals

As we’ve already explored, antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidative damage. They do this by neutralizing free radicals with their electron pairs before they can cause damage. This means that antioxidants protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals. They also protect a person’s DNA from being damaged.

In addition to providing general health benefits, antioxidants can also help boost your immune system. They can do this by preventing oxidative damage to healthy cells. This leaves your immune system with fewer cells to protect, which means it can put more energy into fighting against infections.

More About Antibodies

Antibodies are proteins that are created by the immune system to protect against disease. They can do this by binding to bacteria and viruses and neutralizing them. Antibodies are much more active than antioxidants when it comes to fighting infections. They circulate through the blood and can detect infections and bacteria in the blood. They then bind to the harmful pathogen and neutralize it.

Antibodies can recognize certain foreign bodies. This includes bacteria, viruses, toxins, and even allergens like pollen. Antibodies also boost immunity by preventing harmful bacteria and viruses from causing infections.

Below is a quick chart of the differences between antioxidants and antibodies.

What it vitaminsVitamins C & EProteins that contain amino acids
How it is createdFruits & veggiesIn white blood cells when an infection is detected within the body
What it fights freeFree radicals (atoms with missing electrons)Viruses
How to fightEat fruits & veggiesNormal activity within the body but can also be created through vaccines

Bottom Line

Person holding am apple
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Antioxidants and antibodies have similar functions but are very different compounds. While antioxidants don’t circulate in the blood and are designed to prevent oxidative damage, antibodies circulate in the blood and are designed to bind to and neutralize bacteria.

Antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage and can boost immunity, while antibodies do both of these things.

Antioxidants are beneficial for your health, but you can only reap their benefits if you consume enough of them. This can be challenging because many people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. This is why it’s important to get your daily dose of antioxidants. Antioxidants can help you stay healthy, and make sure you don’t get sick.

Understanding Antioxidants

Illustration of how Antioxidant Works Against Free Radicals


The human body is constantly facing threats from several external influences, such as pollution, viruses, and unhealthy diets, and it is free radicals that are the major culprit. To fight off these cell killers, antioxidants are critical. 

We discussed free radicals previously and how to fight them with antioxidants. Now, we will take a closer look at the role of radical cell fighters and how they help to maintain a healthy body. But before we get into the details, let’s review what free radicals are.

Free Radicals and the Role of Antioxidants 

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Chemical diagram showing antioxidants donating an electron to a free radical. Bigstock_050221_Antio-272504797

The human body constantly forms free radicals due to environmental factors, such as exposure to radiation, UV rays, tobacco smoke, and other forms of air and water pollution. But free radicals are also a by-product of several processes, taking place inside the human body. It might come as a surprise that free radicals may also be produced in the body due to exercise. 

Moreover, free radicals are required for specific processes taking place in the body. For example, when the immune system gets charged up to fight any external invaders, such as a virus, it requires free radicals to damage the external intruder, such as a bacteria or virus. In all, free radicals are not always harmful. 

What is the Problem With Free Radicals?

The concerning aspect of free radicals is that they do not have a complete set of electrons, so they look to steal their required electrons from other atoms; consequently, damaging atoms and molecules in the process. To counter the effect of free radicals, the human body needs antioxidants. 

Antioxidants work by donating their electrons to the free radicals, so they don’t have to borrow electrons from the healthy molecules in the body. Moreover, antioxidants also facilitate the repair process of the cells that have donated their electrons to the free radicals. So antioxidants are an essential part to counter the free radicals in your body.

As the free radicals travel their path of cell destruction, they are met with antioxidant defenses to keep these free radicals in check, but then when the free radicals outnumber antioxidants we have a big problem. This can lead to a condition that is known as oxidative stress. Constant oxidative stress can damage your cells, including your DNA and other healthy molecules in your body.

As a result, prolonged oxidative stress can significantly increase the risk of several health conditions, including premature aging, cognitive decline, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. 

Causes of Oxidative Stress

Bunch of used cigaretes
Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Certain lifestyle and environmental factors that can increase the risk of oxidative stress include:

      • Exposure to radiation, cigarette smoke, and environmental pollution
      • Excessive intake of alcohol, sugar, and polyunsaturated fats
      • Excessive intake of micronutrients including iron, magnesium, copper, or zinc
      • Exposure to viruses, bacteria, and fungi
      • Intense and constant workout sessions that can damage tissues
      • An unhealthy diet that lacks antioxidants.

While the human body naturally produces some antioxidants, including glutathione and lipoic acid, they are not always enough to counter the free radicals produced by environmental factors.

Exploring the Environmental Factors

Photo of smoke from East Palestine Ohio trian derailment
Photo of smoke from East Palestine Ohio train derailment. Credit: Wikimedia CC, Thunderlips36

As mentioned, unhealthy dieting, alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking can increase free radicals in the body, but it doesn’t stop there.

One example is the train derailment in New Palestine, Ohio, which had thousands of gallons of vinyl chloride stored in some of the cars on this 150-car train.

To prevent this toxic chemical from being exposed to the environment, authorities agreed to burn it, but that action has caused controversy in itself as questions arose about its chemical makeup being potentially still active.

Regardless of which manner the vinyl chloride was released into the air, citizens of New Palestine are concerned that this chemical will cause harm to them. Technically speaking, there could be an increase in oxidative stress for the citizens who live in the area, and in the case of vinyl choloride, it can cause drowsiness and nausea. 

Similar concerns for other chemicals that were on the train are Butyl acrylate, which can cause eye irritation, and Isobutylene, which can cause dizziness and headaches.

Although the above is a unique case of potential exposure to toxic chemicals, pollution in general is always out there in one form or another (e.g. vehicle gas exhausts, generating electric energy) and that’s why there is an increasing emphasis on consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants. 

What Foods are High in Antioxidants?  


Below are the nutrients with antioxidant activity and the foods that can provide you with a significant amount of antioxidants, and with that, note that the darker the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants they will have!

Phenolic Compounds

These plant compounds are found in apples, red wine, onions, grapes, peanuts, teacocoa, and all types of berries. 

Vitamin C

Vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage are rich sources of vitamin C. Fruits including grapefruit, honeydew, mango, kiwi, lemon, orange, and papaya also contain a significant amount of vitamin C. 

Vitamin E

Seeds and nuts, including almonds, sunflower seeds, and peanuts, contain a sufficient amount of vitamin E. Certain vegetables such as avocado, chard, leafy greens, and red peppers are also rich in vitamin E. 


A potent antioxidant is readily found in nuts, fish, beef, poultry, and whole grains. 

CAROTENOIDS (Beta-carotene and Lycopene)

Carotenoids can be found in carrots, apricots, beet, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, kale, and cantaloupe. Fruits such as mangos, oranges, peaches, and grapefruits are also loaded with carotenoids. 

Health Benefits of Antioxidants – What the Hype is All About?

Red Peppers
Photo by 王小明 on Unsplash

Researchers started giving attention to antioxidants in the 1990s as they became more aware of the role of free radicals in coronary heart diseases. Around the same time, scientists also established a relationship between free radicals in the body and diseases, such as loss of vision, cancer, and several other chronic health conditions. 

Given the results of several other similar studies, the media, and the food and supplement industries began to create hype about the benefits of “antioxidants.” It became a marketing buzzword for green teas, berries, and several other foods available on the store shelves. Moreover, the supplement industry also promoted the disease-fighting properties of antioxidants. The general public, unaware of the reality, got attracted to the antioxidant-rich breakfast cereals, energy drinks, and supplements. 

However, that’s not how you can get the real benefits of antioxidants. So far, there is inconclusive evidence that the use of supplements and other processed food that claims to be “rich in antioxidants” provides real health benefits or not. 

Indeed, antioxidants offer several health benefits, but you can only enjoy them if you consume antioxidants in their natural state. So instead of adding packaged and processed foods or supplements that claim to contain antioxidants, it is best to rely on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are loaded with natural plant compounds.

These naturally available antioxidants serve as great warriors to fight off free radicals and facilitate the natural repair process in the human body. Moreover, to get the maximum benefits of antioxidants, it is best to use them with other nutrients, plant compounds, and even with other antioxidants that your body requires. 

Final Words 

Oxidative stress caused by an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants can contribute to several chronic health conditions, including arthritis, cognitive impairment, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. But then it does not always mean the use of substances with antioxidant properties can fix the problem. It is especially true if these antioxidants do not come from a natural source. The studies provide evidence that naturally occurring antioxidants found in plants and vegetables can substantially impact diseases. However, there is inconclusive research on the benefits you can enjoy using supplements and other artificial sources of antioxidants that come in the form of processed foods. 

So make sure you add a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet. At the same time, you need to limit your exposure to UV rays, radiation, and environmental pollution. Together, these two factors will reduce the risk of oxidative stress, which in turn will slow down the aging process while offering protection against several chronic diseases. 

What are Free Radicals and How to Counter Them with Antioxidants?

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Wordcloud illustration of antioxidants. Bigstock

You might have heard about the negative effects of free radicals and how antioxidants are used to remove them. However, very few of us know what free radicals are and how they work against the human body to inflict harm.

In this article, we discuss how free radicals affect our health and how we can alleviate their harmful effects with the help of antioxidants.

What are Free Radicals?

Chemical Illustration of an atom with a missing electron
Chemical Illustration of an atom with a missing electron, causing it to become a free radical. Photo: CC Wikipedia

Electrons, when not paired in their atomic orbits are highly unstable. A free radical is a name given to an atom that possesses an unpaired electron, meaning a missing electron, and subsequently, produces unstable cells that can damage our cell membranes.

 The process by which atoms lose electrons is called oxidation and this is not a healthy process for us humans (or any animal) and it can result in a variety of illnesses. When the free radicals are successful, they set off an oxidative chain reaction that can affect hundreds of millions of molecules and consequently, inhibits the cells that work to keep our bodies healthy.

Let’s see how free radicals operate.

Reactions of Free Radicals in Our Body

As mentioned. when free radicals are formed, they try to obtain electrons from different molecules, be it proteins, fats, cell membranes, or genetic molecules; in other words, they try to steal electrons from the atoms of the nutrients that work to keep us healthy. The removal of an electron from any such molecule changes its basic state and triggers an oxidative chain reaction. This phenomenon caused by free radicals is known as oxidative stress.

What is the Free Radical Theory of Aging?

According to the free radical theory of aging, organisms age because their biological cells accumulates oxidative damage of free radicals over time. Even though the debate on the authenticity of this theory is still ongoing,  research studies have agreed on the fact that oxidative stress can lead to this degeneration.

For instance arthritis, heart problems, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and many other health complications can be caused by the prevalence of free radicals.

According to the free radical theory of aging, if oxidative destruction caused by free radicals can be capped, then it can provide longevity to any living being.

So, have we found the fountain of youth?  Most likely not, but have we found a way to keep us healthy to the point that we may live longer? Absolutely.

Sources of Free Radicals

To counter the effects of free radicals, it is imperative to know how they originate. They can be produced within the body or we get exposed to them from external sources. Whatever the case, knowing where they come from, holds the key to getting rid of them!

Internal Sources of Free Radicals


      • The human body needs the energy to survive and grow. This energy comes from breaking down the food that we eat into ATP molecules with the help of oxygen. This chemical reaction also produces free radicals as a byproduct.
      • Free radicals are also produced when the body undergoes severe stress levels or inflammation (the process by which the body moves to protect itself against harm; e.g. cutting yourself while shaving – white blood cells run to protect from the injury).
      • There are a host of other ways that free radicals can occur. Our job is to keep them at bay by exercising, eating the right foods, and avoiding unnecessary stress.

Sources of Free Radicals


nicotine cigarettes in ashtray
Do you really want this kind of nicotine in your body? Photo: Pxhere

What should we stay away from? Let’s start with fried foods. Not only are they bad for your weight, but how they are cooked causes free radicals to develop. 

There are lots of harmful external resources that can expose the human body to free radicals as well, as indicated below.

  • Industrial pollution (including chemicals and smoke)
  • Radiation
  • Pesticides
  • Toxic Metals
  • Cigarette Smoke

It is practically impossible to get rid of external free radicals altogether since they are all around us, in the air we breathe and in the food and water we consume. The best practice is to try and minimize their levels in your body.

How to do this? Read on for more information.

Antioxidants: Crusaders Against Free Radicals


Illustration of how Antioxidant Works Against Free Radicals
Antioxidant donates a missing electron to a Free radical. Now all electrons are paired. Photo: Bigstock

As the name suggests, antioxidants are substances that inhibit the process of oxidation. Introducing antioxidants in the body means that you can stop the oxidative process, officially called oxidative stress.

How Do Antioxidants Inhibit Free Radicals?

Antioxidants stop free radicals from inflicting damage by donating the electron they are looking for.

Like free radicals, some antioxidants are produced within the body, while others can be consumed through dietary products and supplements. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of antioxidants, but there are other foods as well.

There are several other antioxidants, which although not as vital as the ones mentioned above are also necessary for combating the negative effects of free radicals.

    • Lycopene
    • Vitamin C and E
    • Anthocyanins
    • Selenium
    • Polyphenols
    • Curcuminoids

What Foods Contain the Highest Amounts of Antioxidants?

Assortment of Vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to gain antioxidants. Photo: Maxpixel

Coffee has been known to contain high levels of antioxidants, but here’s a short list of some other foods that contain antioxidants:

  • Green Tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes

Making Sense of It All

Antioxidants are free radical killers. They reduce the formation of ions or free radicals and work towards donating an electron. Once the cell has its missing entity – the electron, the free radical is neutralized. The idea is to maintain the availability of antioxidants by eating the right foods and avoiding external resources such as smoking and alcohol.

In general, you can make sure that your body has access to antioxidants by adjusting your dietary habits around fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are one of the richest sources of micronutrients and antioxidants, and both of these substances are necessary to rid the body of free radicals.

Bottom Line

Cells that have missing electrons in the body are bad news. If these guys are allowed to accumulate, they can become very harmful to us. There are many ways that oxidation can occur within our bodies. But there is a hero – Antioxidants – molecules that search for and neutralize these free radicals. We can obtain antioxidants by consuming foods and drinks rich in antioxidants daily.