Antioxidant - An Essential Component for a Healthy Lifestyle

Role of Antioxidant for Healthy Lifestyle

When our body cells utilize the oxygen, they naturally give out the by- products, free radicals into our body. These free radicals cause damage to the body tissues. This is known as oxidative stress, which may be caused by low levels of antioxidants or by inhibition of antioxidant enzymes or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiations. Oxidative stress plays an important role in various kinds of diseases. Antioxidants are substances which help prevent this damage and also repair the damaged cells. So, the antioxidants are called ‘free radical scavengers’. Antioxidants boost our immune system and help to beat several kinds of health problems.

Antioxidants are broadly divided into two types-

  • water soluble (hydrophilic) antioxidants, which react with oxidants in cell cytosol and blood plasma
  • lipid soluble antioxidants (hydrophobic), which protect the cell membranes from peroxidation.

This is synthesized in the body itself or obtained from the diet.

  • Vitamin C, Glutathione, Lipoic acid and Uric acid are water soluble antioxidants.
  • Carotenes, Alpha- Tocopherol and Ubiquinol are lipid soluble antioxidants.

Cells are protected against oxidative stress by an interacting network of antioxidant enzymes. The antioxidant enzymes made by the body are Superoxide dismutase (SOD), Catalase and Glutathione peroxidase.

How antioxidants work

Antioxidants in food and their benefits

Some of the common antioxidants in food and their benefits:

It is best to obtain antioxidants from the natural food rather than from the supplements. Go for the colorful fresh fruits and vegetables which are abundant in antioxidants.

Vitamin A and Carotinoids:

Carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash, apricots, peaches, mozzarella cheese, egg yolks and all other bright colored fruits and vegetables.

Helps in protection against stroke and cancer and reduces the risk of heart attack.


How to Get More Antioxidants into Your Diet

Vitamin E:

Seeds and nuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, liver oil, vegetable oil, mangoes etc.

It prevents blood clots, formation of plaques and multiplying of cells on the walls of the arteries. Also found to reduce side effects of chemotherapy.

Vitamin C:

Broccoli, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits like orange and lemon, tomatoes, strawberries, beef, poultry, fish etc.

Studies have found that there is lower risk of stroke in subjects with highest blood level of Vitamin C. It helps maintain blood vessel flexibility, improved circulation in arteries and side effects of chemotherapy.

Phytochemicals:

Flavonoids- pomegranate, soy, cranberries, red wine, purple grapes, apples, onions, green and black tea etc.

Protect against damage done by cholesterol and help prevent blood clots.

Lycopene:

Tomato, watermelon, guava, papaya, oranges, apricots etc.

May help against prostate, colon, lung, and bladder cancer.

Lutein:

Green leafy vegetables, spinach, broccoli, kiwi etc.

It is associated with healthy eyes.

Lignan:

Oatmeal, barley, rye, flax seeds etc.

Thus antioxidants have an important role in fighting problems like heart attack, atherosclerosis, stroke and various kinds of cancers. They also protect against other diseases like osteoporosis, skin disorders, Alzheimer’s, eye disorders, asthma, gall stones, wrinkles and menstrual disorders 

                    Antioxidants have been widely used in dietary supplements with an intention to protect against heart diseases and cancer. Even though initial studies supported the positive aspects of theses supplements, recent large- scale clinical trials reached inconsistent conclusions. Some of the studies could not find any benefits of antioxidants against these problems and also found that supplements in excess could do more harm. Antioxidants have also been used industrially as preservatives, to prevent degradation of substances and as cosmetics. Further studies may be required to bring out the genuine role of the antioxidants. 
 

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