Antioxidants and their Benefits
Antioxidant facts increase one’s knowledge about the effects of oxidation and the diseases that can occur from attacking free radicals. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that help the body fight the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals occur as the result of oxidation and can be damaging to healthy cells. Antioxidants slow oxidation, which is essential to slow the aging process.
Over time damage to the body continues as these free radicals are thought to play roles in cancer, heart disease, arthritis, cataract formation, memory loss, and aging - just to name a few ailments. The most important aspect of aging is the effect of oxidation on the brain. Free radicals create memory problems and motor deterioration. These damaging free radicals also come from the environment. They are in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.
Features and Foods
Antioxidant facts include the many important benefits of consuming foods that fight free radicals. Antioxidants are found in beta-carotene, selenium, lycopene, lutein, and vitamins A, C and E. Foods with vitamin A and carotenoids include tomatoes, squash, broccoli, peaches and cantaloupe. Consume citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables for vitamin C. Good dietary doses of Vitamin E are in wheat germ, peanut butter, almonds, filbert nuts, sunflower seeds, shrimp, and vegetable oils. Selenium, a nutrient that works along side with vitamin E is valuable in strengthening the immune system. Too much selenium in the body can be toxic, so it’s best to get this nutrient from whole foods that contain selenium and vitamin E is adequate to protect the body. Sources of selenium include fish and shellfish (tuna, salmon, oysters, shrimp), garlic, asparagus, Brazil nuts, and whole grains. Lycopene and lutein can be derived from any tomato product, and kale or kiwi fruit.
Flavonoids are potent antioxidants and metal chelators. Certain flavonoids in fruits and vegetables have much greater antioxidant activity than vitamins C and E or beta-carotene. In fact, the flavonoids protect the antioxidant vitamins from oxidative damage. It’s OK to drink wine, especially red wine, which is full of flavonoids. Also include apples, blueberries, bilberries, onions, soy products, and tea in your diet.
Garlic is a healing herb that also has antioxidant properties. The sulfhydrul (sulfur and hydrogen) compounds in garlic purge the body of toxic heavy metals. These same compounds are effective protectants against oxidation and free radicals. Garlic also contains antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins A and C and selenium.
Curcumin found in the spice Tumeric is a phytochemical with antioxidant properties. Curcumin stops the oxidation of cholesterol, thus protecting against the formation of plaque in the arteries.
Ginkgo Biloba is an herb with powerful antioxidant effects in the brain, retina, and cardiovascular system. It is well known for its ability to enhance circulation helping with dementia and people recovering from strokes. Ginkgo Biloba has also been used to treat hearing problems, impotence, and macular degeneration.
Antioxidants and Specific Conditions
A body of work continues to expand regarding antioxidants and their benefits for specific conditions. For example, the benefits of lycopene, a pigment that is “associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.” Other antioxidants that have gained attention are lutein and vitamin A. According to The National Institutes of Health, lutein and Vitamin A are among the antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of oxygen metabolism that may contribute to the development of some chronic diseases [that include heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.]"
Continue to read and research antioxidant facts and use this information daily as you plan your meals. Good foods do a body good!
- Antioxidants 101- https://www.healthcastle.com/antioxidant.shtml
- Antioxidants (Medline Plus) - https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/antioxidants.html
- Antioxidant Facts - https://shrike.depaul.edu/~oarringt/nutrition.html
- Food & Nutrition by the Editors of Prevention Magazine [Rodale Press, 1993]
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