What are antioxidants and how can I increase them in my body?

What are Antioxidants?

Though most people have at least heard about antioxidants, the vast majority of people do not fully understand what they are or even why they are important to the health of the body. To keep diseases away from the body, there must be antioxidants present. Antioxidants provide a front line of protection against all types of invasive diseases and health concerns that can place a person’s health in danger.

Free radicals are unstable atoms that are seeking to bond with other atoms so they can steal one of their outer shell electrons. This creates a chain reaction of cell damage that can result in DNA mutations that lead to cancerous growths and other diseases.

They are found in many fruits and vegetables, some seafood, and marine plants. Though there are countless antioxidant compounds, the most common natural antioxidants are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, Lycopene, and Beta-Carotene.

Why are Antioxidants so Important to a Person’s Health?

Though the human body naturally produces antioxidants that protect against free radical attacks, there are often many more free radicals than antioxidants present in the body. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are not feeding their bodies the nutrients they need so free radicals are free to begin attacking the cells and wreaking havoc in the body.

When antioxidants are present in high numbers in the body, the body has the protection it needs against free radical activity. In some cases, antioxidants act as protection against the free radicals while some seek to undue the damage that has been caused to the cells.

How Can People Increase the Antioxidants in Their Body?

The most effective way of increasing the body’s antioxidant levels is eating a diet that is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grain. While many of these foods contain antioxidants, there are some choices that can skyrocket the antioxidant levels in the body:

Glutathione Foods

   

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Foods high in antioxidants

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Cranberries
  • Spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Walnuts
  • Carrots

antioxidantThe deeper the color of fruit or vegetable, the higher the level of antioxidants inside. When these foods are consumed in their raw state, they offer the highest level of antioxidants.

Unfortunately, heat can destroy antioxidants in many types of fruits and vegetables while it can enhance others. Tomatoes, for instance, lose much of their vitamin C when cooked, but gain more Lycopene.

To gain the most benefit, health experts recommend people use light cooking methods that do not expose vegetables to high levels of heat.

Microwaving, steaming, and lightly sauteing can help to maintain the levels in the foods so they are not destroyed like they would be when boiled or fried.

What are Antioxidant Supplements?

Those who truly want to increase their protection against free radicals should consider supplementing their diet with man-made antioxidant supplements. One can take a multivitamin supplement or choose to take them individually for greater power. Important antioxidant supplements to include are:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid
  • Beta-Carotene

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and it is naturally produced by the body. This tripeptide is found in every cell of the human body and is created by the liver. This has been found to be one of the most important antioxidants the body produces because it has a unique ability to assist other antioxidants in becoming more powerful and effective.

Unfortunately, the body’s ability to produce Glutathione begins to diminish as a person grows older. There are some foods that can help to increase production of Glutathione:

  • Eggs
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Raw dairy products
  • Whey protein

Take This Knowledge for a Concerted Pursuit of Better Health

Regrettably, there is no one pill or food one can eat to protect their body from free radicals. It takes a concerted effort for a person to protect their health, but it is not difficult to do. The key to gaining the most antioxidant protection is to eat a wide variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Anytime a person can eat them in their raw form, they are more likely to be able to gain increased levels of antioxidants.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, it also behooves a person to make sure they take antioxidant supplements. Glutathione supplements are especially beneficial for helping to protect the body against the free radicals.

Since it is considered the master antioxidant, it can compliment a healthy diet and increase the benefit of all of the fresh fruits and vegetables being consumed. With chemical exposure, cigarette smoke, alcohol consumption, and preservatives, free radicals are on the rampage in many human bodies.

Thankfully, people can take steps to protect their bodies so their cells are not under attack. With these measures, people can protect themselves from a host of health conditions and diseases such as:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Heart Disease

By being proactive and working to consume foods that are rich in antioxidants, a person can rest assured their health will be protected.

Antioxidants not only protect the body from diseases, they also fight the signs of aging so a person does not develop wrinkling and furrowing of the skin. Looking much younger than your true age is an added perk of protecting the body from free radicals.

With these measures, people may be able to avoid the ravages of disease in their body so they can lead healthier lives. As the levels of antioxidants are increased, the immune system is given a boost to protect against illness.

Those who have not yet discovered the many benefits of antioxidants should learn all they can so they can be educated on protecting their bodies from the silent killers that would seek to destroy their bodies at the cellular level, creating widespread disease in the body. When taken as a direct approach to health, protecting the body is simple.

Benefits of antioxidants?

An antioxidant is a natural substance that will stop or limit damage to your body caused by what are known as free radicals. When you ingest antioxidants, this will then stabilize the free radicals. You may be wondering what a free radical is, this is a body chemical that is altered by oxidation. Oxidation occurs when the body is exposed to oxygen which happens every day.

Oxygen is important to your body but exposure to sun, alcohol, pollution or cigarette smoke causes a free radical and will damage body chemicals, DNA and parts of your cells. There could be a link between free radicals and diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease according to scientists. It could also possibly be linked to the aging process.

Now that we know what an antioxidant is, we can begin to explain where they can be found and what the effects are from them. First off, some antioxidants are produced by your body itself and these will start to fight off the free radicals by normal body processes. In order to add antioxidants to help fight off these free radicals; you can get some by eating a healthy diet.

Some examples of foods with a significant amount of antioxidants include fruits and vegetables that are high in nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, selenium, and lycopene.

You could also choose to take antioxidant supplements but we would prefer you to talk to your doctor first before starting or considering adding a supplement to your diet. Some supplements do not contain the proper balance of vitamins, enzymes and minerals; this could give a negative effect on your health.

In order to get the most antioxidants in your diet, we recommend you eat a balanced diet with a nice mix of colorful fruits and vegetables and other antioxidant rich foods. We will go over some of those below.
– You can find Vitamin A in liver, butter, eggs and milk.
– Most fruits and vegetables have Vitamin C.

The ones with the highest amounts of Vitamin C   include kiwi, cantaloupe, papayas, strawberries, and oranges. Others include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bell peppers, kale cauliflower and tomatoes.

– Seeds and nuts include a great amount of Vitamin E; included in this section would be almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds. There is a good amount found in green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach and various oils like corn, sunflower and canola oils.
– Colorful fruits are where you can find Beta-carotene which includes cantaloupe, peas, carrots, papayas, apricots, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, pumpkin, peaches and mangoes.

This is another item that can be found in leafy green vegetables including beet greens, spinach and kale.

Another ingredient that is found in leafy green vegetable is Lutein. This can also be found in spinach, kale, corn, peas, collards, broccoli, oranges and papayas.

– Lycopene is an antioxidant that is found in red and pink fruits and vegetables such as apricots, watermelons, pink grapefruit and tomatoes.
– Selenium is found in a lot of cereals that include corn, wheat and rice. It is also found in animal products such as turkey, fish, beef, and chicken. Other items include nuts, legumes, pastas and bread.

Vitamin E and beta-carotene rich foods are healthy for you and could reduce cancer risks but the American of Family Physicians and the Preventive Services Task Force do not recommend you taking a Vitamin E or beta-carotene supplement for preventing cancer.

Another important note is that if you have a high risk of lung cancer or smoke, it is also advised not to take a beta-carotene supplement because it can increase the risks of developing lung cancer. Overall, the best way to get your antioxidants is by having a mixed diet with a lot of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and whole grains.

This variety is important for many reasons. If you are going to take a multi-vitamin supplement, be cautious of your health and intake of the supplement. Be sure to talk to your physician before starting a vitamin supplement regime. Remember that too much of some nutrients could be harmful to your health if you take supplements instead of foods such as selenium, vitamin E, or vitamin A.

Like anything else, there are some potential hazards out there with antioxidants. If they were harmless, it would not matter if you took them as a “just in case” measure. There have been a few studies made where the results showed that taking antioxidant supplements could interfere with your health. This was linked to both single agents and the combination type of these antioxidant supplements.

The first trial came in Finland where researchers gave beta-carotene to heavy smokers where they were at a high risk of developing lung cancer. When researchers saw a significant increase in lung cancer among those taking the supplement, versus the ones taking placebo, they trial was stopped.

There were also some other trials with beta-carotene that showed an increase in the risk of lung cancer but not all showed the same effect. There was a Physicians’ Health Study where active smokers had no increase in lung cancer, even after 18 years of follow up checks. There was another red flag raised when rates of skin cancer were growing higher in women who were taking vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium.

The bottom line on the antioxidants is to be careful. They can prevent disease but talk to your physician first before just starting a regime. Chronic diseases are still being caused by free radicals from cancer to Alzheimer’s to heart disease and vision loss. With this information, it does not mean that taking antioxidants will fix the problems, especially if they are taken out of their context.

The studies that have been done so far are inconclusive but they don’t provide enough evidence that the antioxidant supplements have substantial impacts on diseases. It is important to remember that most of these antioxidant studies have had limited funding or they were conducted during a short term and have been conducted with persons having existing diseases.

What are free radicals?

The human body is composed of cells. As we go about our daily activities, our cells undergo many processes. One of these processes is the metabolism of oxygen, which is known as oxidation.

When oxygen comes in contact with other substances, it loses one or more electrons and produces a ‘free radical’. There is a necessary amount of free radicals needed to maintain proper physiological functions, however, free radicals steal electrons from other molecules, this causes a chain reaction that can either damage or kill cells. An excessive amount of free radicals may lead to ‘oxidative stress’.

Free radical production is heightened by activities like smoking, exposure to air pollution, and excessive physical stress. This can, however, be prevented through the intake of ‘antioxidants’.

Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules; they can be synthesized by the body naturally, or obtained from the diet.

There are two general classifications of antioxidants. They may either be Water soluble, of Fat soluble.

1. Water Soluble Antioxidants – these antioxidants react with the blood plasma and oxidants in the cell cytosol.

a. Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C)

Ascorbic acid is a monnosaccharide oxygen-reduction catalyst that occurs naturally in plants and animals. Humans however, must obtain it from their diet. In addition to its’ antioxidant effect, it also helps boost the immune system and helps fight common diseases and viral infections. Ascorbic acid can be found in oranges, lemons, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, pepper, and other leafy greens. Ascorbic acid can also be obtained from supplements sold in the form of tablets.

b. Glutathione

Glutathione is a peptide that contains cysteine. It is synthesized by the cells from its amino acid constituents. Glutathione can be taken in 3 different ways:

(1) Glutathione taken by mouth boosts the immune system and treats cataracts, glaucoma, asthma, heart disease, and hepatitis.

(2) When inhaled, Glutathione treats pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and other lung diseases, and when

(3) Administered intravenously, glutathione can help treat infertility, anemia, diabetes, and other kidney problems.

c. Lipoic Acid

Lipoic acid is an organosulfur compound which is essential for aerobic metabolism. It is found in spinach, broccoli, and potatoes and are used to treat nerve-related symptoms of diabetes. It is also used to treat eye related disorders, liver diseases, chronic fatigue, and lyme disease.

2. Fat soluble Antioxidants- these are antioxidants that protect the body from lipid peroxidation.

a. Beta-carotene

Beta carotene is a group of red, orange and yellow photosynthetic pigments that can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Beta carotene is used to prevent heart disease, asthma, and muscular degeneration. It has also been found to have positive effects on Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease patients, and epilepsy.

b. Alpha-Tocopherol (vitamin E)

Vitamin E is a tocopherol with the highest bioavailability. It is found in vegetable oils, cereals, poultry, and eggs and is used to treat heart and blood vessel diseases, and high blood pressure.

c. Ubiquinol

Ubiquinol is a coenzyme and antioxidant that is produced in the body naturally, it is usually found in the heart, liver, kidney, and pancreas, it can also be obtained from eating meat and seafood and is used for treating congestive heart failures, chest pain, and blood vessel conditions.

Since antioxidants posses a high free radical scavenging activity, an antioxidant rich diet may reduce the risk of contracting degenerative diseases and cancer. High antioxidant intake has also been proven to have a positive effect on preventing the premature aging of cells. There are many other sources of antioxidants; you can get them from fruits, green leafy vegetables, tea, wine and even beans.