What are anti-oxidants?
Antioxidant simply means any substance that prevents or delays the oxidation of oxidizable substances in the body. Antioxidants are thus those nutrients in food that have the capability of reducing the capacity of free radicals to damage the body tissues. Antioxidants delay or inhibit cellular damage mainly through their free radical scavenging property and therefore, play a very important role in both health and disease.
What is a free radical?
During the normal daily processes, free radicals are produced, internally due to the cells metabolic functions or externally due to pollution, smoke, medication, radiation, etc. Their undue accumulation in the body causes oxidative stress, which can lead to many chronic and degenerative diseases., including but not limited to conditions like atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2, certain cancers, ischemic heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, early aging, etc.
Classification of Antioxidants:
Antioxidants are in fact micronutrients found in our daily diet, which can-not be manufactured by the body, and therefore have to be supplied through diet.
Antioxidants are either water soluble or fat soluble or soluble in both water and fat. The antioxidants that are water soluble work best in the blood plasma that surrounds the cell, the fat soluble antioxidants are effective on the cell membrane and the antioxidants that are soluble in both fat and water are required inside the cell.
Foods that we consume daily are the sources of the various anti-oxidants and are called super foods. The various super food and antioxidants of importance are:
- Red Blue and purple grapes especially the dark variety are loaded with vitamin C, anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin, which help to improve the immune system and protect against cancer and heart disease.
- Many foods contain α-Lipoic Acid in smaller quantities, such as spinach, broccoli, yam, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and rice bran. α-Lipoic Acid is otherwise made naturally in the body and has been shown to improve Diabetes Mellitus type 2 and insulin resistance.
- Eggs and green leafy vegetables contain a very potent antioxidant, Leutin. Researchers have shown that this antioxidant is beneficial role in protection of eye sight
- Reseveratrol is the antioxidant found in blueberries, grapes and peanuts. Reseveratrol is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant and is beneficial for people suffering with heart disease. It is also found in many nuts such as peanuts and Brazil nuts and is helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
This antioxidant is also found in Red wine but its side effects outweigh its beneficial effects due to the alcoholic content and amounts consumed.
- Berries, especially raspberries and strawberries are rich in ellagic acid, which have proven health benefits against many cancers.
- Green leafy vegetables are rich sources of vitamin A, C and E along with calcium, these nutrients are very powerful antioxidant and along with kaemferol, found in these vegetables help to reduce oxidative stress, reduce blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels and help fight against cancer.
- Red orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, oranges, and mangoes are rich sources of β-carotene (Vitamin A precursor) and vitamin C.
- Black, green and white tea has two potent phytochemicals — anthocyanin and pro anthocyanin. Both are antioxidants that help fight inflammation. They also have a healthy dose of catechins, antioxidants that are thought to block cell damage that can lead to cancer. Green tea is also abundant in a catechin, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
It is also important to note that the cooking method greatly impacts the levels of antioxidants in these foods. According to the Journal of Food Science, griddles, microwaving and oven cause less antioxidant destruction in veggies as compared to frying, boiling or cooking in a pressure cooker.
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