Antioxidants, everyone has heard of them, but only a few know what they really are and what they do.
Antioxidants are present in fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, where they protect the plant against insects. Fruits and vegetables that have bright, distinctive (dark) colors, have the highest amount of antioxidants, such as the very well known red tomatoes, blueberries, purple grapes, green (and purple!) kale, yellow corn and orange carrots.
Among the more exotic fruits, pomegranate is a true antioxidant 'bomb'. Even delectable foods contain high concentrations of antioxidants, such as green tea, green coffee bean, cocoa and dark chocolate.
A number of the vitamins, minerals and compounds in food have antioxidant properties. Vitamins A, C and E are among the most well known, as are beta-carotene, lycopene and selenium.
By exception, the body's most powerful antioxidant is 'home-made' and created by the body itself, though the building blocks need to come from food, such as selenium and the two essential amino acids cystein and methionine.
A diet rich in antioxidants is necessary to keep the levels of free radicals in your body low and maintain good health.
As you age, your body's natural defenses against oxidation, free radicals and oxidative stress become less effective. A heightened intake of dietary antioxidants can prevent many age-related diseases.
Some factors that increase the numbers of free radicals are life-style choices such as smoking, drinking and sunbathing. Other factors can't be avoided so readily: air pollution, infection, and exposure to toxic substances or radiation.
Antioxidants benefit your health by cleaning free radicals out of your bloodstream. They have a range of health benefits, ranging from minimizing wrinkles and preserving the texture of the skin by protecting it from sun damage and sunburn.
Although antioxidants aren't proven to treat any conditions, research has shown that antioxidants have also been implicated in the prevention of a number of degenerative, age-related disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, memory loss, immune dysfunction, cataracts, macular degeneration and dementia.
Different antioxidants benefit different parts of the body. Beta carotene in carrots can help maintain eye health. The lycopene found in tomatoes contributes to prostate health. Flavonoids found in tea, coffee, cocoa and chocolate are good for your heart, while the proanthocyanidins found in cranberries and apples can aid in the maintenance of the urinary tract.
Because antioxidants are used up in the process of free radical neutralization, a diet rich in antioxidants is essential to ensure a constant supply.
A diet containing a balance of the various forms of antioxidants will maintain overall good health, and could even impact serious diseases. It is recommended to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts to ensure that we are taking advantage of all the health benefits that antioxidants can provide.