What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules which prevent other molecules from under going oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction which can result in the production of unstable molecules called free radicals leading to chain reactions that can damage cells, DNA, lipids, nucleic acids and proteins which are responsible for vital functions in the body. Antioxidants nuetralise excessive free radicals and protect the body against their toxic effects and help prevent diseases.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free Radicals are highly reactive molecules which have one or more unpaired electrons. These unpaired electrons make the free radicals highly unstable and they move through the body looking for stable molecules to scavenge electrons from. When a free radical steals electrons from a stable molecule, the stable molecule becomes unstable resulting in a process called oxidation. Unfortuntely the problem doesn’t end here because the stable molecule becomes a free radical starts scavenging for free electrons thus triggering a chain reaction. This vicious cycle can be disastrous for healthy cells as irreparable damage is caused.
Note: Free radicals can drastically speed up aging. So if you want to look and feel young make sure to avoid foods/liefestyle choices which result in high free radicals and instead choose foods which will increase the amount of antioxidants.
When free radicals outnumber the antioxidants they can cause toxic effects on cells and result in a phenemenon called oxidative stress. Several studies conducted recently have shown that oxidative stress can result in the development of chronic and degenerative illness such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, aging, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
Note: Diseases such as cancer, strokes, cataract, etc are so different from one another. It would be hard to imagine that most of them share a single root cause – oxidative stress resulting from the action of free radicals on the body.
Examples of antioxidants
Vitamin E: Is a fat-soluble vitamin which protects your body from cell damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease and cataracts as we age. Vitamin E works with other antioxidants such as vitamin C to offer protection from some chronic diseases. Vitamin E also plays a vital role in improving our immune systemand aids in DNA repair. Its antioxidant function mainly resides in the protection against lipid peroxidation. Main sources of Vitamin E are raw wheat germ, nuts, peanuts, green leafy vegetables, whole wheat flour, whole grains and spinach.
Vitamin C: Is a water-soluble vitamin which aids in the synthesis of collagen, which helps make the blood vessels and muscles strong. Vitamin C helps reduce the occurance of stomach, lung and colorectal cancer. Main sources of Vitamin C are bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, potatoes, melon, berries, papayas, romaine lettuce, watercress.
Lycopene: Is a non-provitamin A carotenoid that is responsible for the red to pink colors seen in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and other foods. Repair damage in the blood-spinal cord barrier in cases of spinal cord injury. Main sources of Lycopene are guavas, watermelon, tomatoes, papaya, grapefruit, sweet red peppers, asparagus, purple cabbage, mangos, and carrots. The consumption of tomatoes and tomato products has been associated with a reduced incidence of a number of different types of cancers, most notably prostate, lung, and stomach.
Selenium: Is an essential trace mineral that is important for many bodily processes, including cognitive function, a healthy immune system, and fertility in both men and women. Selenium helps in DNA repair and can help prevent cancer especially prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers. Selenium can help you live a longer and healthier life. This mineral is vital to well-being as it helps promote heart health and prevents asthma. Main sources of Selenium are brazil nuts, whole wheat bread, sunflower seeds, crimini mushrooms, and whole grains.
Flavonoids: Are polyphenolic compounds which are present in most plants. Main sources of flavonoids are green tea, red grapes, apple, ginkgo biloba, soybean, curcuma, berries, onion, broccoli, red peppers, strawberries and mangoes.
Beta-carotene: Is a red/orange pigment found in many fresh fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is coverted in the body into vitamin A. This compound helps maintain healthy skin and also plays a vital role in eye health. Consuming beta-carotene can lower risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, macular degeneration, and other age-related diseases. Main sources of Beta-carotene are carrots, spinach, watercress, bell peppers, pumpkin, sweet potato, cantaloupe melon, butternut squash and kale.
Note: Antioxidants are powerful nutrients which reverse aging, improve well being , reduce the occurance of illnesses and increase longevity. These antioxidants are not created in the body naturally hence it is vital for good health to ensure that you treat your body to these powerful micro nutrients daily.
Examples Of Free Radicals
Free radicals sources can be classified into two categories depening on whether they are generated internally within the body or externally:
– Internal Sources of Free Radicals
– External Sources of Free Radicals
Fats and Oils
Cooked and Processed Meats
Antioxidants = Anti Aging
Research suggests that free radical damage to cells leads to the pathological changes associated with aging. This is because free radical damage to the body results in age related degeneration of skin resulting in age lines, wrinkles, weak muscles,etc thereby resulting in an older appearance. If that wasn’t enough free radicals also result in cognitive decline because they destroy the neural pathways of the brain hastening the onset of memory loss, and alzheimer’s disease. Free radicals also have a negative impact on mental health and mood.
Note: Because antioxidants help fight against free radical damage, they help to improve life span and positively influence quality of life. So if you want to live a happy healthy life make sure to get your daily dose of antioxidants.