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.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that are seeking to bond with other atoms so they can steal one of their outer shell electrons.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
By being proactive and working to consume foods that are rich in antioxidants, a person can rest assured their health will be protected.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
2. Fat soluble Antioxidants- these are antioxidants that protect the body from lipid peroxidation.
Beta carotene is a group of red, orange and yellow photosynthetic pigments that can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
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.
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.