Health Approach
Antioxidant : What is it and why it is important?

Antioxidant : What is it and why it is important?

But first, let us understand what is ‘Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress happens when there is an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. It is believed to play a role in aging, causing wrinkled skin and brown spots on the skin, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, as well as a number of chronic conditions including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are unsteady molecules with an odd number of electrons. Due to this, it allows them to easily react with other molecules which can cause large chemical chain reactions in your body. This destructive behavior can lead to cell death or cause mutations in our DNA, leading to cancer. It is ironic that oxygen, a vital element, can have such harmful effects on the body.

Free radicals are formed naturally through breathing, exercise, and the conversion of food into energy. However, they are formed in much greater quantities from alcohol, cigarette smoke, pollution, pesticides, ultraviolet light, stress, lack of sleep, and fried foods, especially meat. An increase in free radicals can be dangerous, but Antioxidants can protect cells from cellular damage caused by free radicals, known as oxidative stress.

The Sources For Antioxidants

Antioxidants, or sometimes known as “free-radical scavengers,” are the antidote to eliminate free radicals before they cause damage to our body. Antioxidants can be in natural or artificial form. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different substances that act as antioxidants in foods, especially plant-based foods. The most famous are ACE vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, as well as selenium, lycopene and polyphenols, but there are many more. Lemon and lime juices also prevent oxidation as they contain vitamin C.

Plant-based foods are the richest source, while meat, fish and dairy products are low in antioxidants. A study published in the Nutrition Journal examined the antioxidant content of more than 3,100 foods – drinks, spices, herbs and supplements used around the world and found that consuming “plant foods helps adding more antioxidants in our nutrition than non-plant food”.

Which Foods Are Best For Antioxidants

  • Berries are always a great source for antioxidants, especially black-currants, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries. Fruits that does not oxidize (turning brown when exposed in the air) such as mango, kiwi, and orange, contain more antioxidants than those that do (apple, pear, and banana). Olives are also another good source. Good vegetables to consider include artichokes, cabbage, red and green chili peppers, red cabbage, and beets.
  • Eating whole grain breads, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta is better as it contain far more antioxidants than their white, processed counterparts.
  • In nuts, most of the antioxidants are found in the outer skin, such as almonds, pecans, and walnuts. Brazil nuts are an exceptional source of the antioxidant selenium – eating these twice a day can raise blood levels by over 60 percent. Chocolate can be a rich source, but it should be dark – the more cocoa the better – so opt for those with 75-99 percent.
  • Black and green tea, red wine, grape juice, and coffee contain significant amounts, but wine, tea and coffee should be consumed in moderation due to their alcohol and caffeine content. Water contains no antioxidant while cola and cow’s milk are also close to zero.
  • Herbs and spices are generally very high in antioxidants, especially cloves, peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, and saffron. Try to be experimental and discover its benefits. Constantly using these is good.
  • The antioxidant lycopene is a pigment that helps color red and pink fruits and vegetables, and cooking food that contains these can actually increases its levels. The best sources are tomatoes and tomato products – organic ketchup contain three times more lycopene than non-organic ketchup. Lycopene can also be found in pink grapefruit, watermelon, guava, and papaya.
  • Vitamins A, C and E can be destroyed by prolonged storage or prolonged cooking. While cooking can increase the antioxidants in some foods, processed foods however are usually much lower than fresh foods.

Conclusion

The key factor for preventing diseases is the entire diet, not focusing on the individual element, though it is essential to understand that plant-based foods have the most powerful protective effects. One of the reasons for this may be due to the high levels of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. The best way to get the right amount of antioxidants is to eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, purple broccoli, red cabbage, asparagus, kale, berries, avocados etc. Varieties are always encouraged. To conclude, ‘Don’t skip on your vegetables and fruits. The more you eat, the healthier you will be!’.

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