Antioxidants

    Posted before Dec-31-2007

Simply speaking, antioxidants are phytochemicals (a bioactive compounds derived from plants), vitamins and other sources of nourishment, which acts to inhibit or prevent the oxidation of another chemical. Antioxidants protect the cells in our body from the damages caused by free radicals or active atoms with unpaired ions that react with oxygen to damage our body organs. In vitro en in vivo studies have demonstrated that antioxidants help to avoid the damages done by the free radicals by neutralizing the harmful elements. It is important to mention here that the free radicals are related to deadly diseases such as cancer and heart ailments and, hence, antioxidants play a crucial role by protecting us from these conditions.

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Antioxidants are found in abundance in numerous fruits and vegetables. Many herbs (read spices) used in cooking as well as medicinal herbs are also rich in antioxidant content. In addition, whole grain cereals, various nuts, legumes, red wine and even tea possess high levels of natural antioxidants. Fruits that are rich in antioxidant content include grapes, grapefruit, apples, and different berries such as blackberry, cranberry and blueberry. Among vegetables, different beans like kidney bean, red bean, and pinto bean, tomato, garlic, carrots and Russet potatoes are rich sources of natural antioxidants. Hence, consuming these items in adequate measure helps our body to tackle the harmful free radicals and keep us healthy, especially protecting us from cancer and heart diseases.

For instance, flavonoids like resveratrol are said to be potent antioxidants and they are present in several natural products, including ginkgo, citruses, green tea, and dark chocolate as well as in red wine. It may be mentioned here that ingesting a recipe or a vigorous equilibrium of these natural sources of antioxidants are beneficial for our well being compared to taking any of these antioxidant sources separately. Together, these antioxidants add up their strength and become very potent in tackling the harmful free radicals.

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If one is concerned about his or her health and wants to make the body strong to ward off the threats posed by the free radicals, they should think about using nourishing dietary enhancements on a regular basis or alternately continue with a healthy pattern of eating that includes fresh foods that are rich in antioxidant content. For those who may still be wondering about the significance of ingesting antioxidants, it is important to note that they hunt down and neutralize the free radicals resulting to an anti-aging effect. It is essential to mention here that the harmful effects of the free radicals cause several diseases in human beings, including aging, and deadly illnesses such as cancer and cardiac ailments. In fact, when a molecule becomes a free radical by having unpaired ions, it tries to rob an electron from another molecule making it unsteady. This leads to a series of destructive actions that eventually ends with the complete damage of a healthy cell in the body. And over a period of time, these damaged cells deposited in various organs of the body lead to aging signs. When the skin cells are damaged, your skin looses its flexibility, elasticity, texture and becomes fairly creased and even wrinkled. Antioxidants are useful as they hold back the destructive chain reactions initiated by the free radicals and protect our body from various illnesses. The antioxidants not only neutralize the free radicals, but act as scavengers and antagonize them eventually helping the body to get rid of the harmful elements.

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All about free radicals

Usually free radicals develop as a part of the normal metabolic process (the rate at which body uses energy or burns calories gained from food ingested) in our body. In addition to this, free radicals form owing to certain adverse ecological aspects such as smoking, pollution, radiation and even the use of pesticides. The free radicals are basically unstable or reactive molecules and hence effortlessly involve in reactions with the vital molecules in our body. They have the potential to affect the DNA, fat and proteins in our body. As these molecules are very unbalanced, they need to form union with other molecules, damaging their energy and disseminating the harmful process leading to aging, tissue damage, and several diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular ailments.

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It needs to be mentioned here that everything in the world, whether organic or inorganic, comprises of atoms that bond together to form molecules. And every atom again comprises of a fixed number of positively charged ions called protons and negatively charged ions called electrons. The majority of the single atoms are basically unstable as they do not enclose equal number of protons and electrons to pair. They either have less or more electrons making them unbalanced. Hence, with a view to attain utmost stability, these unbalanced single atoms solve their problem either by donating electrons (if there are few too many) or receiving electrons (if they have less) and form secure molecules. Therefore, to be precise, free radicals are such molecules that either have less or more electrons and need to be stable by giving away or receiving electrons. When they have lesser number of electrons, they try to pilfer them from other stable molecules and this process alters the chemical composition of the healthy or stable molecules causing detrimental effects in our body.

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Hence, it is clear that when any free radical reacts with a healthy or stable molecule, it changes the healthy molecule into another free radical. This in fact, triggers a series of reactions eventually destroying the cell. The antioxidants have the capability to counteract the free radicals without themselves becoming free radicals. On the other hand, when the antioxidants counteract any free radical, it becomes dormant. To be precise, the antioxidants are molecules that give up their electrons to free radicals with a view to prevent a destructive chain reaction that harms the cells in our body.

As antioxidants are valuable in preventing cell damage in our body, it is essential that we have regular intake of foods rich in antioxidant content or dietary enhancements. This will preserve the supply of antioxidants to our body and help us to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If we ignore this vital aspect, the action of the free radicals will not only damage our body cells, but may also lead to aging and diseases like cancer and cardiovascular ailments. But taking antioxidant rich foods and supplements will help us to neutralize the free radicals and avoid any harm to our body. If you are wondering how to get your daily requirement of antioxidants, note that vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene are some of the major antioxidants and all of these are often combined to produce a potent antioxidant beverage known as the ACE drinks. While vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene are well known antioxidants, there are many other antioxidants like lutein and lycopene that are yet to become popular among people.

Advantages of antioxidants

Various researches with plant phytochemicals (bioactive compounds derived from plants) have demonstrated that these compounds possessing antioxidant actions can lessen the hazards of cancer and enhance the well being of an individual. This is primarily owing to the fact that the antioxidants neutralize the action of the harmful and disease-inducing free radicals in our system.

Antioxidants lessen cancer risks

Although findings of all the studies relating to the benefits of antioxidants are not final, several researches conducted on the topic have demonstrated that use of antioxidants may perhaps help in lowering the vulnerability of enduring the killer disease cancer. The Chinese Cancer Prevention Study carried out in 1993 is an example of an indiscriminate examination of the usefulness of antioxidants in reducing risks of cancer. This research was significant as it demonstrated that a combination of the antioxidants beta-carotene, selenium and vitamin E helped to remarkably lower the occurrence of cancer.

Antioxidants look after the heart

It is common knowledge today that cholesterol is the moot cause for all heart ailments and, hence, the endeavor worldwide is to regulate the ingestion of foodstuff high in cholesterol content. However, people tend to forget that the reason behind the accumulation of fat in the arteries is the oxidation or decomposition of low concentration of lipoprotein cholesterol. It is believed that ingesting antioxidant rich food as dietary enhancements may lessen the perils of cancer.

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