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What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which fight a process in our body cells called oxidation. Plant-based foods are the primary source of antioxidants, but our body makes some too. Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and the minerals selenium and manganese are supplements of antioxidants; plant nutrients, chemicals like flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens are also antioxidants.
What do Antioxidants do?
When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals that may cause damage. Antioxidants act as ‘free radical scavengers” and prevent/repair damage caused by these free radicals.
What are the sources of Antioxidants?
• Vitamin D and carotenoids-Carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots, sweet potatoes
• Vitamin C- Citrus fruits, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, and tomatoes
• Vitamin E-Nuts and seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil, cod liver oil.
• Selenium-Fish and shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, garlic
• Lycopene-Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon
• Flavonoids/polyphenols- Soy, red wine, purple grapes, pomegranates, cranberries, spinach
• Lutein-Kale, broccoli, kiwi, brussels, sprouts, spinach
• Lignan-Flax seed, oatmeal, barley, rye
• Other foods like corn, lemon, dates, chillies, cloves, prunes, mangoes, millets, berries, peppers, oregano, cinnamon, pineapple, coconut oil, broad beans, and blood oranges.
What are the health benefits?
- Carotenoids convert to vitamin A that plays a role in vision, reproduction, and bone growth, and cell function. It also helps save off infections.
- Lutein has been shown to protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Lycopene is associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer and sun damage to the skin.
- Vitamin E has strong antioxidant properties which may play a key role in immune function, metabolic processes and repairing DNA.
- Vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen, the protein that makes skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels. Without it, wounds wouldn’t heal, and cartilage, bones, and teeth would break down.
- Selenium interacts with proteins to manufacture antioxidant enzymes called selenoproteins that may help regulate thyroid function and support the immune system.
- Antioxidants help prevent the free radical damage associated with cancer.
- Increased antioxidants can also help slow the process of aging and may increase longevity.
- There are claims that vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and beta carotene reduce the risk of heart attacks and cancer.
Facts on Antioxidants
A study showed that antioxidants might decrease the risk of a second heart attack by more than 75%.
A study on selenium was so positive that the National Cancer Institute is now suggesting a study of selenium on 35000 men to see if it decreased the risk of prostate cancer.
The antioxidant nutrients might not make diabetes go away, but they might help control diabetes better.
Essential molecules in the body such as those that form artery walls become oxidized when they lose an electron. Once oxidized, they become unstable and easily break apart. Antioxidants stop this oxidation process.
Studies reveal that a diet rich in antioxidants is associated with lower rates of cancer and circulatory disease.
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