Free Radicals Versus Antioxidants
Free Radicals Cause Damage and Disease
To understand what antioxidants do for the body, we need to understand what Free Radicals are, and how they cause damage; as there is an ongoing battle in your body between free radicals and antioxidants. Free Radicals are hazardous molecules that age us and cause diseases. A brief technical explanation is that atoms are the smallest building blocks of everything living. Each atom has electrons circling around the center, if you remember your high or college chemistry, and normally electrons come in pairs. When an atom is short one electron or has one too many, it’s called a Free Radical.
The radical is free because it is cruising around aggressively looking for a partner. If it grabs a replacement electron from an atom that is part of a healthy cell in your body, then there’s damage to that cell. Oxygen is the source of most free radicals so the damage is called oxidation. Free radical oxidation is what makes iron rust or butter turn rancid, so that gives you a vivid picture of the destruction.
Free radicals can be found in many places; pollution, cigarette smoke, and other compounds. Also, they are formed when your body burns food for energy. They are powerful and your body makes them to kill germs. Too much exposure to sunlight can cause free radicals.
On the other side, thank goodness, we have antioxidants, because they neutralize free radicals. Many vitamins and nutrients function as antioxidants and they limit the damage caused by the free radicals. Antioxidant strength is measured in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) units. ORAC measures how many oxygen radicals a specific food can absorb and deactivate. The more oxygen radicals a food absorbs, the higher its ORAC score. The higher the ORAC score, the better a food is at helping our bodies fight diseases. Nutritionists suggest that people consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day to have an impact on their health. Just one ounce of cherry juice concentrate supplies 3,622 ORAC units, about an entire day's recommendation. .
Antioxidant Ascorbic Acid
An Understandable Explanation
Supplemental Vitamins & 10 Top Foods
Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, as are beta carotene, lutein, coenzyme Q10 and alpha-lipoic acid; and that just lists a few. Your health will benefit from taking a single antioxidant supplements such as Vitamin E but you will do much better by combining a number of antioxidants. Consider taking a cocktail of 4–10 antioxidants or a high potency multivitamin and you may be getting enough.
The top ten antioxidant foods are berries, broccoli, tomatoes, red grapes, garlic, spinach, tea, carrots, soy and whole grains. This is such a great list for me as I like everything on it!
Berries and Cherries- High in Antioxidants
Importance of Antioxidants in Your Diet
There are many foods with antioxidant properties and berries are considered number one, particularly dark berries, like blueberries, cherries and cranberries. Different berries have slightly different types of antioxidants, such as Blackberries have gallic acid, Black raspberries have ferulic acid, Blueberries have anthocyannins, chlorogenic acid and peonidins, and so forth. A growing body of science reveals tart cherries, enjoyed as either dried, frozen cherries or cherry juice, have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, when compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times more than blueberries or strawberries) vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate. Acai berries have been known for generations by certain tribes in Brazil and are also very high in antioxidants
All of these antioxidant play a role in removing free radicals and preventing diseases. Antioxidants are known to fight over 60 diseases including cancer, diabetes, inflammatory, acoustic and cardiovascular diseases to name just a few.
Green Tea with Tea Ball
Today, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. There are three main varieties of tea -- green, black, and oolong. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves and reportedly contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols.
Cloves- a Natural Mediterranean Antioxidant
Antioxidants are also found in places you might not think about such as spices, in this instance cloves. Cloves are commonly used in the Mediterranean diet as a natural antioxidant because they found cloves was the best spice due to it containing high levels of phenolic compounds, as well as, other properties. Cloves had the highest capacity to give off hydrogen, lower lipid peroxidation, and reduce iron.
Broccoli, Califlower, Spinach- Great Sources
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli are protective against colon cancer. In Asia there is a lower incidence of degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease believed to be due to their high consumption of fruits and vegetables, plus green vegetables.
In one Asian study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, they examined detoxification mechanisms of these vegetables that help protect the body. What they learned was the cruciferous vegetables do indeed reduce genetic damage but they protect the body in a secondary way also. In addition, they neutralize free radicals then there is a secondary mechanism of protection against oxidative damage by stimulating the body’s own detoxification mechanisms. This actually helps protect the body from cancer at three different stages. Broccoli was fond to be the most significant vegetable in this study.
Grains with Short Summary
Whole Grains and soy are among the top ten foods with high antioxidants. In the first study of its kind, researchers reported that even some snack foods like popcorn and many of the popular breakfast cereals have surprisingly large amounts of antioxidant substances called polyphenols. Polyphenols are a major reason why fruits, vegetables, and foods like chocolate, wine, coffee and tea have become well known for their role in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The whole grains with the most antioxidants are wheat, corn, oats and rice. The polyphenols are also found in olives, walnuts, tea leaves, grapes and many other foods.
In conclusion, you have the top ten list; you know that the list includes numerous foods so a strict diet is not really required to become healthier. You can win the battle in your body between the free radicals and the antioxidants by just eating more of the right food. Focus the bulk of your diet on the healthiest items for snacks, then increase the fruit and vegetables servings in your daily diet. You may live to be a hundred!
© 2010 Pamela Oglesby
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