Antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that prevent the oxidation of other molecules and therefore reduce the negative effects of what are known as 'free radicals'. For this reason they are also known as reducing agents. I don't want to get too technical here but there's a little bit of science involved but I will try to keep it as simple as possible because I'm not that way minded anyway.

Antioxidants basically help to reduce the negative influence and effects of these free-radicals by losing or donating an electron to them. This stops the free radical's influence on the process of oxidation and the potential damage to the cells. Hence the term anti-oxidant (combat oxidation). To understand more about the process of oxidation and cellular degeneration please read more about free radicals

The potential for free radicals to exist and cause cell damage to your body is far greater today than it was say 100 years ago or more. This is due to the extra stress that is placed upon us due to many reasons that include; the higher levels of pollution in our environment, the higher levels of additives in our foods, more interaction with unnatural chemicals such as pesticides, household polishes, cleaners, insect repellents, perfumes, deodorizers and antiperspirants etc. etc. etc. Our so-called 'progress' is indeed detrimental to our very selves in many ways, least not our health!

Fast food lifestyles especially add extra stress upon our bodies. Although we have more in the way of quantity, we are generally lacking in quality as we eat far more unnatural diets that have a reduced array of naturally abundant antioxidants. Once upon a time our diets consisted of homemade food made from natural healthy ingredients that were generally all home grown. What wasn't home grown didn't last that long either because it was free from chemical preservatives. Generally speaking, this is not the case today as most of our foods last a very long time thus indicating the additives to increase shelf life .

We also live a life of excess, both in the quantity of food that we consume as well as the quantity of saturated fats and cholesterol that are present in many of our diets. This all has a very negative effect upon the body and will definitely increase the potential for free radical formation and accumulation which will only be detrimental to our health.

The simple answer is to eat less junk foods and more healthy foods that are high in anti-oxidants.

 Natural Sources of Antioxidants

Fruits and vegetables generally offer the best and most abundant sources of naturally occurring antioxidants. Other foods include nuts, whole grains, some meats, and fish. If you focus on a healthy diet plan that is rich in fruits and vegetables you should get all the antioxidants that you need. Remember, eating plenty of antioxidant rich foods does not mean that it makes it OK to eat a lot of junk food because that most certainly is not the case. You must reduce your saturated fat intake and start to eat a healthy and balanced diet to really stand a good chance of reducing the risks of free radical damage to your body.

Fresh Fruit & Veg Contains Masses of Antioxidants

There's good evidence to suggest that eating a healthy, balanced diet that contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of developing many serious diseases and common medical conditions. There are many different anti-oxidants and sub-categories known to man and science with many different functions, far too many to mention here. Below is a list of the most commonly known. 

Common antioxidants and their natural sources are;

  • Beta carotene - apricots, carrots, mangoes, papaya, parsley, pumpkin, spinach 
  • Vitamin A - carrots, cheese, eggs, fortified low-fat spreads, greens (dandelion leaves, beet greens, spinach, kale etc.), squash, sweet potato, yoghurt.
  • Vitamin C - berries (blackcurrants, blueberries, strawberries etc.), broccoli, capsicum, citrus fruits (oranges etc.) kiwi fruit, mangoes, spinach
  • Vitamin E - avocados, broccoli, nuts and seeds, plant oils (wheat germ, olive, sunflower), pumpkin, squash, spinach, tofu 

Other natural sources of anti-oxidants include;

  • Allium sulphur compounds - leeks, onions and garlic
  • Anthocyanins - eggplant, grapes and berries
  • Catechins - red wine and tea
  • Copper - seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts
  • Cryptoxanthins - red capsicum, pumpkin and mangoes
  • Flavonoids - tea, green tea, citrus fruits, red wine, onion and apples
  • Indoles - cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
  • Isoflavonoids - soybeans, tofu, lentils, peas and milk. 
  • Indoles - cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower  
  • Lignans - sesame seeds, bran, whole grains and vegetables
  • Lutein - leafy greens like spinach 
  • Lycopene - pink grapefruit, tomatoes and watermelon                   
  • Manganese - seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts.                    
  • Polyphenols - thyme and oregano.                    
  • Selenium - seafood, lean meat and whole grains.                    
  • Zinc - seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts.

Fresh pressed juices are an excellent way of getting an abundance of antioxidants along with vitamins and minerals at the same time. Good quality juices can also be bought off the shelf with a long life span too. This saves a lot of time juicing the fruit or vegetables manually with an electric juicer. 

Fresh made juice is better quality though as it contains live enzymes which are destroyed in juices bought off the shelf during pasteurisation. Even the pressed juices that are in the refrigerator in the stores have been pasteurised to a certain temperature and their live enzymes damaged as a result.

Enzymes are important for the digestion and absorption of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Without enzymes the foods we eat would be useless.

Precautionary Measures With Anti-oxidant Supplements

Like most things though, too much of anything in the long-term can have adverse effects upon our health. If anti-oxidants are taken in supplement form, particularly high doses, you could be putting your health at risk. It is well documented that beta-carotene for example can actually increase the risk of lung cancer in individuals that smoke or have smoked in the past. It is also believed that high doses of vitamin E may increase the risk of prostate cancer and certain types of strokes in certain people too.

Taking extra antioxidants in the form of supplements may also interact with certain other medical drugs and medicines. To be certain that you're not putting your health at risk you should always tell your medical doctor or health care professional about any antioxidant supplements you're thinking about taking, or indeed are taking at the present time.

Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Many believe that it's far more natural and therefore better to get your daily recommended nutrients from healthy eating habits rather than from man-made supplements. I am inclined to agree, but both have merits depending on various aspects of a person's individual health and personal situation. If you are thinking about taking antioxidants as a supplement, just be certain to discuss it with a qualified doctor, dietitian or nutritional adviser first to be certain that it is safe to do so.

One thing is certain though, the recommended daily consumption of 'five portions of fruits and vegetables' is obviously recommended for a very good reason.  

Come on, eat your fruit and veg!

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