Antioxidants- Nutritional and health benefits are immense.
Antioxidants can check or slow down harms due to dangerous free radicals, the root cause of various fatal diseases.
To tell the truth, free radicals are unbalanced particles that the human body produces as a response to environmental and other pressures.
How can antioxidants benefit our health?
In the first place, as antioxidants or “free-radical scavengers” are extremely necessary for us to remain healthy and live a healthy life, therefore we must intake it and that too substantively.
Types of antioxidants:
In fact, we get antioxidants from various natural or artificial items. In nutshell
The foremost antioxidants are phytonutrient which actually is plant-based nutrient (antioxidants) i.e various food, fruits, leaves etc. and polyphenols, flavonoids, phytoestrogens and flavones are some of them.
- Our body mechanism which is able to produce endogenous antioxidants.
- The exogenous antioxidants which come from outside our body are :
- ( Selenium. Vitamin A, C and E. Manganese. Beta-carotene. Lycopene. Lutein.)
Indeed, there are a lot of elements that can perform like antioxidants. Each one of them plays their own role and with the help of other substances, they perform bodywork efficiently and effectively.
As all the antioxidants have their own functions and they are not substitutable with another, therefore it is extremely necessary to intake various types of diet and above all as per requirements.
Definition of antioxidants:
For this, firstly we will have to know what are free radicals. Moreover, we will know what is oxidation. Further, it is also important to know what is oxidative stress?
Most importantly, antioxidants are such compounds that help to restrict oxidation which is actually a chemical reaction with oxygen inside our body.
As a result, it produces free radicals that lead to chain reactions. If our body fails to remove these free radicals effectively, oxidative stress may occur within our body.
To tell the truth, these free radicals are waste materials that our cells generate at the time our body digest food and responds to nature.
However, it damages our cells or organisms gradually and we cannot know about the damage in its initial stage.
Internal factors like various inflammations and external factors such as UV exposure or pollution or cigarette smoking etc can increase the production of free radicals in our body.
What is the result of oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress may lead to: –
stroke, heart problems, respiratory diseases, Parkinson arthritis, cancer, immune deficiency
and some more inflammatory diseases.
Which/ What activities and procedures produce oxidative stress?
Activities and procedures which produce oxidative stress are:
- industrial wastes.
- chemicals reactions due to insecticides/pesticides and medicines/drugs as well as chemotherapy.
- intake of some foods, particularly refined and processed foods, certain dyes and additives, trans fats and artificial sweeteners.
- environmental pollution.
- mitochondrial movement or activity.
- tissue injury or inflammation.
Due to these exposures and actions may result in damage of cells which in turn, helps to:
- disturb electron transport chains.
- release free iron and copper ions unnecessarily.
- increase enzymes to generate free radicals.
- activate phagocytes, a form of white blood cell to fight infection.
These, in turn, cause oxidative stress and antioxidants is very much helpful to reduce the above risks. Antioxidants aid to neutralize free radicals in our bodies, and thereby improve overall health.
Moreover, antioxidants like ascorbic acid or enzymes or other substances or vitamins or beta carotene etc are capable of terminating these damaging chain reactions or effects of oxidation.
Good sources of specific antioxidants include:
- vitamin A – Orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, carrots, cod liver oil, fortified skim milk and dairy products, egg yolks, fortified breakfast cereals, liver etc.
Moreover, sources of beta-carotene like spinach, most dark leafy and green vegetables, broccoli etc.
- vitamin C – Brussels sprouts, oranges and orange juice, blackcurrants, grapefruit, kiwifruit, mangoes, broccoli, green peppers, pineapple, spinach, red sweet peppers, cooked cabbage, tomato juice, capsicum, cauliflower, cantaloupe, and strawberries etc.
- vitamin E – vegetable oils (such as wheat germ oil), sunflower seeds and oil, mango, avocados, almonds, nuts, seeds and whole grains, kiwifruit and mamey sapote etc.
- zinc – seafood, lean meat, eggs, milk and nuts, legumes and whole grains etc.
- beta-carotene – sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, mangoes, pears, apricots, carrots, spinach, paprika, chilli, parsley, coriander, sage, cilantro, cayenne and marjoram and etc.
Moreover, healthy food such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds etc.
- copper – spirulina, oysters, lobster, seafood, liver, lean meat, shiitake mushrooms, milk and nuts, dark chocolate and leafy greens etc.
- manganese – beans and legumes, seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts, whole wheat bread and leafy green vegetables, pineapple and oatmeal and bran cereals etc.
- lycopene – Red and pink vegetables and fruits, tomatoes and tomato products, pink grapefruit, watermelon and strawberries etc.
- allium Sulphur compounds – shallots, leeks, onions and garlic etc.
- flavonoids – apples, blueberries, parsley, tea, green tea, onion, citrus fruits and red wine etc.
- lignans – seeds and nuts, bran, whole grains and vegetables, apricot, strawberries and peaches etc.
- indoles – cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips etc.
- polyphenols – cocoa powder and dark chocolate, thyme and oregano, vegetables, soy and nuts etc.
- catechin – apple, dark chocolate, tea, cherries, red wine, blackberry, guava, sweet, purple potato and pears etc.
- isoflavonoids –chickpeas, soybeans, tofu, lentils, milk and peanuts etc.
- anthocyanin – berries, blackcurrant, grapes, blue corn and eggplant etc.
- selenium – Brazil nuts, seafood, offal, lean meat and whole grains, milk and yoghurt, pork, lentils, bananas, oatmeal and spinach etc.
- Beta-cryptoxanthin –red capsicum, spices, papaya, pumpkin, paprika, mangoes and chilli powder etc.
- lutein – green and leafy vegetables like spinach, papaya and oranges and corn etc.
Good food sources of antioxidants:
Most importantly, almost all the colourful vegetables and fruits can offer a range of antioxidants.
Moreover, “superfood” or “functional food” refers to those foods that are rich in these.
Actually, lentils, apples, mangoes, blueberries, broccoli, spinach and olive oil are extraordinary sources of antioxidants.
Effect of cooking on antioxidants:
Actually, cooking effect on a specific food is that it will either increase or decrease the levels of antioxidants.
For example, lycopene antioxidant gives tomatoes their red colour. If we cook tomatoes, the lycopene makes them easier for us to process and use and their antioxidants level increases.
However, zucchini, peas and cauliflower lose a considerable part of their antioxidant activity in the cooking process.
Most importantly, we have to remember that we must eat a variety and colourful antioxidant-rich foods, both cooked and raw.
Follow the below tips to increase antioxidant intake:
Drink a cup or two of green or matcha tea.
Eat some different fruits or vegetables daily, preferably with snacks or meals.
- Eat rich coloured food like berries and beets etc.
- Use turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, clove and oregano, to add the flavor and antioxidants level.
- Intake seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, Brazil nuts, and dried fruit, but do not add any sugar or salt.
No doubt, the best will be to follow the prescription of registered and famous dietitians:
Although fruits and vegetables are better for overall health, it is not clear whether how far the intake of antioxidants is justifiable. Besides, we need to be cautious regarding the intake of these supplements.
Supplements of Antioxidants:
In the first place, we need to pay attention to the warning of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where they said that excessive use of antioxidant supplements is harmful.
1)If we intake excess of beta-carotene, risk of lung cancer for smoker’s increases.
2) Risk of prostate cancer increases if we use too much of vitamins.
3)Besides, excess use of some antioxidant supplements may cause tumour growth.
4)As antioxidant supplements can react with some medicines, therefore it is mandatory to consult a doctor or dietitian before using them.
5) However, all the researches so far do not recommend that in taking of any antioxidant as a supplement or with a diet can protect us from a particular disease.
The takeaway of antioxidants:
- As we all know that free radicals can cause a range of diseases, like heart problem and cancer and loss of vision. But it does not mean that if we intake antioxidants, they will check these diseases.
- Moreover, artificial antioxidants may raise the risk of some health problems.
- Therefore, natural sources of it are very important.
- However, there is no proof that antioxidants, in processed foods, will provide substantial health benefits.
- In addition, before taking antioxidant supplements for any problem, must speak to a doctor first.
Benefits of antioxidants:
To tell the truth, antioxidants can defend oxidative stress which is in simple words cell damage caused by free radicals.
As free radicals are far more than the natural antioxidants, so external sources of antioxidants are extremely necessary to get the maximum health benefits of antioxidants.
1) helpful for different parts of the body:
Moreover, there are different sources and varied functions of various antioxidants. For example, beta-carotene for eye, lycopene for prostate and flavonoids for the heart.
2) support our immune system:
As singlet oxygen has the power to catalyze the creation of free radicals, therefore it can enhance our immunity system.
3) help to benefit our health:
Indeed, antioxidant consumption is very important and necessary for our optimum health, particularly to live a healthy life in today’s polluted world.
As our body cannot produce it sufficiently, therefore we must intake these vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals and enzymes from external sources with our daily diet.
However, sufficient intake can provide us with protection against:
- Heart problems,
- Immune system problems,
- Memory problems,
- Eye problems
- Mood disorders
- Skin problems
Most importantly, research is going on over the health benefits of antioxidants and they are not sure whether as food supplements or in food which form is better.
However, they recommend people to intake a wide range of fresh fruits, leafy and green vegetables, whole fruit grains, lean meats and dairy items, daily which also help to get flawless skin.
Moreover, it is good if we can take daily five fruits and vegetables of medium and large size.
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