The Importance of Antioxidants

1436910417_1 Since the 1990s, antioxidants have garnered much attention from scientists on their effects on the human body. Today, they seem to be the nutrition “buzzword;” everywhere we look, antioxidants are gaining attention on the cover of health and fitness magazines, medical television shows, and news articles, all enticing you to get your antioxidant fix. Blueberries, red and purple grapes, blackberries, and dark-green leafy vegetables are just a few of the foods that are high in antioxidants.

What are antioxidants and why should you consume them?

By definition, an antioxidant is a food or other substance that inhibits oxidation. Oxidation is similar to cutting into an apple and letting it sit on the counter, or not preserving your food in an airtight container. It is the reaction that causes your apple to turn brown or your food to spoil.

The same thing happens in your body. Free radicals in the body can produce oxidation, causing a chain reaction and cell damage or death. An overload of free radicals can generate oxidative stress, which has been shown to play a role in aging and chronic and degenerative illness. These free radicals can also be produced from external sources, such as cigarette smoke and pollution. Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that prevent or delay these dangerous chain reactions. The best way to get more antioxidants in your body is by consuming a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Just like adding lemon juice to a sliced apple can prevent or delay the oxidation process, adding fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes high in antioxidants to your diet can prevent or delay the oxidation process in our cells.

Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, E, and other minerals such as selenium, chromium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important in vision, bone growth, and the immune system. It is commonly found in liver, whole milk, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squashes.

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid; it is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed for growth and repair of tissues in the body. It is also useful for healing wounds and forming scar tissue, repairing and maintaining bones, cartilage and teeth and in forming collagen in the skin. It is commonly found in citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, and strawberries.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin important for immunity and metabolic processes. Food sources include nuts, seeds, vegetables, fish oils, whole grains, fortified cereals, apricots, and other foods.

Selenium is an essential trace element and has attracted much interest in recent years because of its role in supporting the body’s own protective antioxidant system. Foods that are a good source of selenium include seafood, whole grain cereals, and meat products.

It is important to understand the different nutrients and the effects they have within the body. Health problems may stem from the lack of nutritious foods in our diets and exposure to certain chemicals in the environment; therefore, eat your carrots and fill up your plate with leafy greens, squash, berries, and an array of other colorful fruits and vegetables. A variety of color indicates a healthy variety of antioxidants and other nutrients. Do what you can now to prevent or delay health conditions in the future.

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein does not constitute medical advice, including advice related to the prevention and treatment of any disease. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on an alternative health philosophy rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is also not intended to promote any specific product.

 

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