Understanding the Role of Antioxidants

1 Mar

All of the cells in your body are exposed to oxygen each and every day. As you are aware oxygen is vital for your body but there is a down side to all of this exposure. Oxygen causes oxidation to your body and to things in the environment.

When we talk about oxidation in your body we are referring to the way in which body chemicals are changed into free radicals. Environmental oxidation is exposure to factors such as pollution, the sun and to alcohol.  Both of these conditions create free radicals.

Free radicals can cause damage in your body over time. While some cells are able to change and heal others cannot. It is thought that free radicals could be responsible for diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Antioxidants are important because they are natural substances. They have the ability to stop or reduce the damage that is being caused by the free radicals. Your body is smart and will use antioxidants to stabilize the free radicals. They can potentially reverse much of the damage that has been caused.

The good news is that antioxidants can be found in many natural foods. While your body does produce some antioxidants by itself it never hurts to give your body a boost.

To ensure your body is getting enough antioxidants eat foods that are high in Vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopen and selenium. Good sources include fruits such as blueberries, pomegranates and acai berries.

Let’s look at some food choices next.

  1. Vitamin A – good sources include eggs, butter and liver
  2. Vitamin C – tomatoes, cauliflower, citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupes, kiwis, bell pepper, broccoli and Brussels sprouts
  3. Vitamin E – good sources include nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts. Green leafy vegetables contain lots of Vitamin E so eat veggies like kale and spinach. Certain oils are also great sources, look for soybean, corn, canola and sunflower oils
  4. Beta-carotene – look for fruits and vegetables that have bright colors. This includes carrots, peas, cantaloupes, apricots, papayas, peaches, mangoes, pumpkin, apricots, sweet potatoes, broccoli and any squash
  5. Lutein – good sources of this can be found in most green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collars, corn, peas, broccoli, papayas and oranges
  6. Lycopene – look for fruits that are either red or pink. Watermelon, apricots, tomatoes and pink grapefruits are great choices
  7. Selenium – this can be found in animal products such as beef, fish, chicken, eggs and cheese. It is found in bread and pasta, rice and in nuts and legumes.

As you can see many of these fruits and vegetables contain more than one important nutrient. So eating enough should not be a problem for you. When adding new vegetables to your diet eat them in small quantities so they do not upset your digestive system.

Many people prefer to take antioxidant supplements and you may prefer to go this route as well. If you do check with your doctor to make sure any supplement does not interfere with any medications you may be currently taking. It is important to ensure that any supplement contains a good balance of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

Always remember to include a good variety of foods in your diet. This way you are providing your body with plenty of antioxidants and the chance to avoid contracting any major disease.