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