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All You Need to Know About Antioxidants

Did you know that you can do so much with extraordinary little to help your body fight off harmful molecules that attack your cells daily? You can do this with only a little help from antioxidants!

 

What are Antioxidants

 

Though there has been a great deal of discussion about antioxidants too few people know what they are and how our health benefits from these powerful substances that are essential to our health.

Our body fights a daily battle against unstable oxygen molecules, which are a normal byproduct of our metabolism called free radicals. Free radicals occur as a reaction to environmental factors, but your body also generates them internally.

Antioxidants are powerful molecules that can neutralize free radicals in your body. Free radicals can attack important macro-molecules in your body and therefore damage the cells. Antioxidants defuse free radicals by releasing an electron. This phenomen acts as a natural off-switch for free radicals.

If you don’t provide your body with enough antioxidants, free radicals can accumulate in your body and cause oxidative stress, which can lead to cancer, heart disease, age-related disease and diabetes.

Many minerals and vitamins serve as antioxidants in addition to their other roles. Vitamins C and E, zinc, and selenium are the most common naturally occurring substances in your food which are likely to prevent oxidation and serve as a defense against various threats.

Antioxidants can be found both in natural foods and man-made substances.

Where Do Free Radicals Come From and How Do Antioxidants Help Protect You?

 

Free radicals are regularly formed in your body and can serve both good and bad causes for your health. They are sort of tricky molecules that are formed in your body by normal metabolic processes or can come from external causes like cigarette smoking, X-rays, environmental pollution, ozone, and industrial chemicals.

The internally generated sources of free radicals are:

  • Inflammation
  • Reperfusion injury
  • Excessive exercise that causes tissue damage
  • Mitochondria
  • Antioxidant deficiency
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Abnormal oxygen levels in the body

Several environmental and lifestyle factors that can cause free radical overflow:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Environmental pollution
  • Alcohol
  • Industrial pesticides
  • Toxins
  • High intake of iron, zinc, or magnesium
  • Enormous intakes of antioxidants like Vitamins C and E

Free radicals also play an important part in your body functions. For example, they support your immune cells in fighting infections.

On the other hand, if free radicals outnumber antioxidants, they can cause a state called oxidative stress. This condition damage your DNA and lead to cell death. The damage and mutation of your DNA increases the risk of cancer, heart diseases, and Type 2 diabetes, and it also speeds up the aging process.

Eating antioxidant-rich foods helps you to lower the risk of these diseases.

Your body needs to maintain a balance between free radicals and antioxidants since an unbalance can lead to oxidative stress.

The Types of Antioxidants You Should Know About

 

There are thousands of antioxidants types. In the food category, there are primarily two types based on solubility water-soluble and fat-soluble.

Among water-soluble kinds, the most popular antioxidant is Vitamin C. They perform their actions in the plasma, in the fluid inside and outside our cells. It is important to remember that Vitamin C diminishes over time by heat, light, and oxygen. In the winter, when freshly picked fruits and berries are not available, you might want to consider eating freeze- or air-dried foods that keep the highest amount of all the natural nutrients of any preservation methods. The most common and richest Vitamin C sources are blueberries, plums, orange, strawberries, kiwis, apples, spinach, asparagus, and walnuts.

Fat-soluble antioxidants play a crucial role in the body’s metabolism, energy production, and anti-inflammation activities.

The most common fat-soluble antioxidants are Vitamin E and A, carotenoids, lipoic acid, and astaxanthin. These act primarily in cell membranes. Vitamin E plays a crucial role in protecting cell membranes against oxidative stress. Foods high in Vitamin E include almonds, peanuts, pumpkin, sunflower seeds and oil, spinach.

By increasing these types of foods in your diet, you can help protect your body from oxidative stress.

7 Best Sources of Antioxidants

 

The most reliable sources of antioxidants are berries, vegetables, and fruits. Antioxidants are more effective when consumed in whole foods rather than as isolated substances in tablet form. The best antioxidants come from fresh, clean, organic, and especially high-quality food.

Eating organic and clean food is not only healthy, but it also has the awesome ability to prevent several diseases. Adding berries to your diet is the easiest way to increase the antioxidant level of your menu. Eat them fresh as a snack or add them to your morning breakfast porridge, yogurt or smoothies. You get the most antioxidants from organic ingredients that have not been processed. Eating them fresh or using freeze- or air-dry berries helps you to get the most benefits from berries.

A lot of fresh berries contain powerful antioxidants like anthocyanins and other flavonoids. Dietary flavonoids are natural compounds found in many fruits, berries, and vegetables. These are rich in antioxidant activity and help your body stay healthy and decrease the risk of many chronic diseases. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoids that give your food red, blue and purple coloring. They fight free radicals and may offer anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits that neutralize free radicals and therefore prevent cell damage.

Here are the top 7 healthy berries high in antioxidants. Adding any of these berries to your every daily diet gives you the necessary antioxidant boost your body will thank you for!

  • Blueberries – wild Nordic blueberries (also known as bilberries) are one of the best sources of antioxidants in the berry world. Long days with much light and low temperatures during the growing season make the Nordic wild blueberry plant produce more polyphenols (antioxidants) to protect themselves from the sun and survive the cold winter. These factors give bilberries a significantly higher level of antioxidants than any other type of blueberries. Bilberries are also high in anthocyanin, which along with antioxidants, may reduce the risk of heart diseases and cancer, lower blood pressure, could help with age-related diseases, and may clean your body from harmful toxins.
  • Blackcurrant – blackcurrants can have an anti-inflammatory effect. They promote heart and brain health and might offer protection against eye problems. They are also believed to relieve urinary tract infections.
  • Chokeberries – also known as Aronia, have the highest antioxidant level of all berries. They pack a nutritional punch as they are high in Vitamin C, fiber, iron, and manganese. They are used for their ability to help with heart problems, inflammation, and digestion. Aronia berries can improve your memory, and several compounds in chokeberries are believed to be natural cancer fighters.
  • Raspberries – a great source of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. The antioxidants and other ingredients in raspberries have been associated with killing stomach, colon, and breast cancer cells. Raspberries are known to have anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Crowberriesacne cure, anti-aging, fever control, blood sugar control – these are one of the several beneficial ways crowberry may help you. Crowberry leaves are one of the first berries to be used to regulate menses and to help manage menstrual bleeding control.
  • Cranberries – best known for their ability to lower the risk of urinary tract infection, they also have anti-inflammatory effects and lower blood pressure.
  • Sea Buckthorn – has gained popularity as a digestive system stimulator and been associated with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, acting as an anti-inflammation substance and natural medicine for skin-conditions like acne and rosacea.

Why You Should Prefer Healthy Diet Over Antioxidant Supplements?

 

It is essential to maintain balanced antioxidant levels, and more is not necessarily better since excessive intake of antioxidants can have the reverse effect on your health. Excessive levels have been associated with the `antioxidant paradox’ theory, meaning that a large number of antioxidants given to the subject have no beneficial or therapeutic effect and can promote oxidative damage.

High doses of Vitamin E have been linked with several complications like blood thinning and the risk of stroke or even death, so health professionals advise eating antioxidant-rich foods and avoiding antioxidant supplements.

Foods have greater antioxidant power, and the compounds work better synergistically. They lower the oxidative damage better than isolated supplements.

Antioxidants supplements are man-made substances that contain a concentrated form of antioxidants. Supplements can contain many different compounds that fight free radicals. The effect of antioxidant supplements may differ in the chemical content of various foods. You need to remember that taking a man-made antioxidant supplement won’t make you healthy.

Also, large doses of antioxidants in supplements may affect you differently than when they are consumed in the levels you get from foods with antioxidants. For example, you can find eight different chemical forms of Vitamin E in foods, but Vitamin E supplements usually only include one – alpha- tocopherol, which has also been used in most research studies on Vitamin E. Antioxidant supplements containing beta-carotene, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A have been linked to an increased risk of death.

Taking antioxidant supplements may:

  • Effect your exercise performance
  • Increase the risk of cancer or interfere with cancer treatment medications
  • Increase birth defects
  • Increase the risk of lung and heart diseases

Remember – a healthy diet and fresh organic ingredients give you all the antioxidants you need for your body to face free radical damage and resultant diseases.

 

References: 

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-antioxidants
  2. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10791396/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21130297/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853516/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20096093/
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Excerpt-of-the-spices-and-herbs-analyzed-in-the-Antioxidant-Food-Table_tbl5_41121483
  9. https://retinafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Antioxidants-in-Foods.pdf
  10. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/

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