Antioxidants: Why are they Important?
Antioxidants and Health
Are you familiar with the beneficial effects of the antioxidants? You are often advised to eat fruits and vegetables to maximize the potential effects of antioxidants in them. You might have heard many times that they can prevent cancer, slow down aging and are effective immune system boosters. But, what are antioxidants and how different are they from our usual nutrients?
Antioxidants are potent substances that you get from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants have the capacity to eliminate free radicals in the body. Free radicals are the ones that attack the cells in your body which in the long run can cause a range of diseases and one of them is cancer.
The presence of free radicals also have the tendency to hasten the aging process. Ample amount of antioxidants should be present in your body to combat the free radicals and its damaging effects. There are many types of antioxidants that can be found in food especially from fruits and vegetables. Each of these antioxidants have beneficial effects on the different parts of the body.
What are the Types of Antioxidants and its Beneficial Effects on Health?
There are different types of antioxidants that you can find in food such as fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs and dairy products. These antioxidants include the following:
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin which is necessary for the proper functioning of various organs in the body. Vitamin E is the collective term for compounds that exhibit the biologic actions of alpha-tocopherol. It is the generic term for tocopherol which is available in four (4) forms.
Vitamin E lessens your cancer risk as it acts as a potent antioxidant by stopping the formation of nitrosamines which are carcinogenic in nature. Nitrosamines come from nitrites in foods. Vitamin E also protects your other antioxidant which is Vitamin A. It also works well with Vitamin C in protecting the body from chronic diseases. The good sources of Vitamin E include vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, nuts and whole grains.
Vitamin C, known as ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin and found in all living tissues. It also acts as a powerful and effective antioxidant. It has a wide variety of health benefits besides being one of the best antioxidant vitamins. It is an immune system booster as it has the ability to lessen the duration and severity of common colds and other respiratory tract disorder. It also protects you from stroke because of its involvement in collagen synthesis. And it helps regulate cholesterol in the body.
There are nutrient dense sources of vitamin C which we can buy readily such as capsicum or bell peppers, cabbage, strawberries, broccoli, potatoes and citrus fruits like orange, grapefruit, and lemon. It is recommended to consume at least five (5) servings of fruits and vegetables daily for optimum health.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which comes in different forms: retinal, retinol, retinoic acid and others which can be found in animal products. Vitamin A can be obtained from two main types of food such as:
Retinol – this is a fat-soluble vitamin which is yellow in color. This is the type of vitamin A you get from animal products such as eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese.
Carotenes - consists of beta- carotene, alpha-carotene and xanthophylls. This is photosynthetic pigment which is orange in color and essential for photosynthesis and is commonly found in plant sources.
The well-known carotenoids which are potent antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein. Beta–carotene fights against prostate cancer. Lycopene combats cancer of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and pharynx. Lycopene protects you from cancer of colon and rectum. Lutein lessens your risk of macular degeneration and ensures you have healthy eyes. The best sources of Beta-carotene include pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots and squash.
There are many health benefits of Selenium such as an immune system booster as it works against bacterial and viral infection, Selenium also fights cancer cells and has the capacity to maintain a healthy heart. The rich sources of Selenium include nuts, fish/ shellfish, grains, eggs, garlic, and milk.
Flavonoids are commonly found in fruits such as blueberries and grapes. It is a very potent antioxidant. This is a reliable brain booster and will protect you from memory disorders. The rich sources of flavonoids include blueberries, chocolates and green tea.
For you to get the maximum potential of an antioxidant, fill half of your plate with vegetables. Always remember that having a plate with a rainbow of colors from vegetables and fruits will ensure that you get all the nutrients and antioxidants you need to stay healthy.