How Antioxidants Fight Free Radicals for Your Health
Free Radicals? No thanks. I'll have some antioxidants please.
On a cellular level, your body has an ongoing battle between
antioxidants and free radicals. Don't be alarmed. This is a normal process that
everybody has underway each and every day. What you need to know is how to keep free radicals from taking control over your cells in this battle.
Damage Caused by Free Radicals in the Aging Process
Let's take antioxidants or the defenders first. What are
they? How do they benefit in efforts to keep you healthy? They are the heroes
in this situation coming to the rescue so to speak. These plant-based agents from foods act like protectors
that neutralize free radicals. They do this by pairing an electron to the
outermost shell of the radical oxygen molecules, which makes them harmless.
Antioxidants are nutrients like vitamins A, C and E, minerals, and enzymes that
can counteract the normal effects of oxidation in body tissue. These, along
with beta-carotene, luteins, lycopene, and selenium make up the force to rescue
your healthy cells in 1 of 2 ways. One is by breaking the chain of free
radicals, which stabilizes them and causes them to decay into harmless atoms.
Secondly, antioxidants can work to prevent the oxidation process. This oxidation or loss of electron is like what happens to cut fruit when the air gets to it, and it starts to turn brown. Antioxidant agents can prevent or inhibit this process of oxidation.
Dr. Whiting Explains the Effects of Free Radicals on Cells
That brings us to the other side of the battle, the frequent but not always offenders, free radicals. You see some free radicals occur naturally and do no harm to cells. Anyway, free radicals are atomic structures with an unpaired electron in its outermost shell, which are very reactive and result in reactions like oxidation. Free radicals are unstable. They search out the body to grab or donate electrons, which cause damage to cells, protein, and DNA.
Alton Brown Explains Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Even though some free radical production is normal, things like pollution, stress, smoking, exercise, and aging contribute to the production of harmful free radicals. Most often the body is able to protect itself from the damaging effects of free radicals. Yet, if free radicals produce in excess or if too few antioxidants are present, then damage occurs. It is even thought that free radicals play a part in disease processes like cancer. No one can avoid all free radicals, and you really wouldn't want to, since some are not hurting your body at all. So the key is really balancing the defenders and offenders. If you are serious about dodging the effects of harmful free radicals and getting the benefits of antioxidants, you will want to know where to get powerful forces to fight free radicals for your health. These antioxidants are found in many common foods. Some foods that are rich in antioxidant-packed nutrients are:
· Vitamin A / Beta-carotene--Dark orange, red, yellow, and green vegetables and fruits, such as broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mangos, and cantaloupe.
· Vitamin C--Citrus fruits, berries, dark green vegetables, red and yellow peppers, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, pineapple, cantaloupe, mangos, papaya, and guava.
· Vitamin E--Vegetable oils like olive, soybean, and corn, safflower, as well as nuts, seeds, grains, wheat, wheat germ, oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and legumes like lentils, split peas, beans, and dark green vegetables.
· Selenium--Brazil nuts, brewer's yeast, oatmeal, brown rice, chicken, eggs, garlic, molasses, onions, seafood like salmon and tuna, wheat germ, whole grains, and most vegetables.
USDA Top 10 Antioxidant All Stars featured from 20 listed on About.com: Alternative Medicine.
1. Small red beans (dried).
2. Wild blueberries.
3. Red kidney beans (dried).
4. Pinto beans
5. Cultivated blueberries.
8. Artichoke (cooked).
Why So Many Different Lists of Best Antioxidants?
You can look at different books and websites, and they will all feature different heavy hitters for antioxidant benefits. This list does not include either the ever more popular acai berry or the pomegranate, 2 antioxidants super stars. But they simply were not included in the foods tested. Each of them rank very high on most studies for antioxidant value though. The lowly red bean tops this list as the most powerful. Blueberries noted for the wild type having quite a bit more antioxidant value than the cultivated variety. No matter which list you go by, you can't go wrong with those "Power Rangers" for your health. However, just gorging on a few of these foods listed is not the best way to get optimal benefits. Remember that variety can still be the spice of life, even in foods we eat.
It is also noteworthy that some cooking can change the
amount of antioxidant benefit in foods. For instance, russets have more benefit
raw than cooked. But who eats raw potatoes? Boiling carrots reduces its
benefit, while cooking tomatoes actually raises its benefit. That's good news
if you use tomatoes in sauces, soups, and stews.So enjoying many
of these antioxidant-rich foods would be the best way to get the most benefit. In
fact, the Cleveland Clinic Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute states that
eating such a variety can reduce risks of cardiovascular disease. At any rate, a diet including plenty of antioxidant-packed foods can play a big role in fighting disease and keeping you feeling better.
Green and Black Tea are Detoxifiers of Harmful Chemicals
Both black and green tea can block damage to DNA caused by smoke and may have as much as 10 times more polyphenols than vegetables and fruits offer.
There is another way to get some of these antioxidants into
our bodies to fight free radicals besides whole foods. These are supplements. There is
no shortage of agents offered with the tall order of helping you overcome
premature aging, wrinkles, and even reduce risks of certain diseases, including
heart disease and cancer. Some are indicated to improve circulation, to fight
arthritis, heal injuries more quickly, as well as to lower blood pressure and
cholesterol. If sales are indicative of benefits, the order is being filled with
supplements also. Even though Juan Ponce De Leon, the Spanish explorer, succumbed
to defeat in his quest for the fountain of youth, the desire for maximum health
status and longevity has not diminished. In that regard, the benefits of antioxidants
in the fight against free radicals for your health has been shown effective. It seems easy enough to seek out these antioxidant-rich foods to eat and/or to take supplements fortified with them. These are a just few ways to get rewards from the battle of antioxidants against free radicals for your health.
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