The Health Benefits of Antioxidants
When you talk about nutrition and eating correctly, the conversation always turns to antioxidants. In order to understand why they are important to your health, you first must know what they are.
Antioxidants are the quicker picker uppers of the body. The process of oxidation or
exposure to environmental hazards like cigarette smoke or pollution leaves free radicals.
Think of free radicals as lonely electrons looking for mates. Electrons come in pairs in
the outer ring of an atom. If you have a missing electron in an atom’s outer ring, it
needs to find a mate. It steals an electron from another cell that now becomes a free
radical. Sometimes the free radical steals one of its electrons from the outside coating
of a cell and causes that coating to harden. This keeps the cell from doing the jobs
it’s supposed to do. Eventually it causes death of the brain of the cell, the RNA or
DNA, or it damages the mitochondria the energy center. These areas are tough to fix and
eventually the cell dies.
Antioxidants provide that extra electron the free radical looks for and stabilizes it so
it doesn’t damage the cell itself. Dr Denham Harmon developed his free radical theory on
aging in 1954. It states that free radicals are responsible for most diseases and aging.
When the cells on the body begin to die, one by one signs of aging begin. The color of the
hair starts to change, as pigmentation no longer takes place. The skin loses elasticity
when the body no longer makes collagen and elastin. The body ceases making coenzymes that
mend the tissue in the heart and create new body tissue. All this is the effect we call
age, but it doesn’t have to happen as quickly if the body has enough antioxidants to fend
off the electron thieves, the free radical.
You can increase your defenses to ward off those “bad boy” free radicals by
simply changing your diet. You hear about vitamin C, A and E as powerful antioxidants. You
also may know about Lutein, Lycopene, Beta-carotene and Selenium as other sources, but may
not know what foods contain these nutrients.
Vitamin C is in red berries, red and green bell peppers, kiwi, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach
and citrus fruit. Vitamin A is in dark green and orange vegetables, orange fruit like
peaches and papayas, apricots and cantaloupe, milk, eggs and liver. Vitamin E is in nuts,
whole grains, green leafy vegetables and avocados. Look to tomatoes for a high amount of
lycopene. Check out dark green leafy vegetables and bright orange vegetables or deep yellow
fruit for Lutein. You also find it in eggs. Beta-carotene is in orange, yellow and green
fruits and vegetables.
For rich sources find vegetables and fruit that are purple or blue. Blueberries
rank high, but not as high as acai the new super food. Both are purple.
Purple grapes are another rich source. There are studies presently being
conducted at Universities attempting reproduce the ingredient in purple foods as a cure for
cancer. Folk medicine has long used a juice diet consisting of purple, blue and deep red
fruits as a cure, now science agrees they were right.
You need a rainbow of color in your diet, since all the antioxidants support one another.
A colorful plate for your health is as good as a colorful palate for the artist. Both
create a beautiful picture. The palate creates a work of art and the colorful plate, the
picture of health.
Much more than Antioxidants is discussed back at the Natural Source Vitamins Homepage