What are Antioxidants and What Do They Do?
In order to understand the benefits of antioxidants, you must first know what they are and how they work. They are compounds, also known as "free radical scavengers", because they aid in preventing damage from free radicals.
How Do Antioxidants Work?
Antioxidants are contained in many different foods. They help to keep cells healthy by removing waste. This waste or compound is also known as a free radical. Sometimes free radicals occur during metabolism, and other times our immune system creates them to fight bacteria and viruses. In addition, they can be caused by things you are exposed to such as herbicides, pollution, and cigarette smoke.
Free radicals attach themselves to normal cells in the body and eventually damage them. There is a way to reduce the incidence of free radicals. One is a change in lifestyle. For example, stopping smoking or not overeating are two ways of controlling them.
However, this does not completely stop the production of free radicals. Even though your body has natural defenses to decrease the effect of free radicals, you can help by eating foods rich in antioxidants. As food is digested, antioxidants are released. They travel into cells via the bloodstream.
What are Vitamins That Contain Antioxidants?
There are three main antioxidant vitamins.
Beta-carotene is one that is contained in plant pigments and converts to Vitamin A in the body. It is often considered a form of the vitamin and promotes immunity, vision, and overall health.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is another that is often taken as supplement. Studies are still being conducted on this vitamin that is often touted for preventing colds. There is no evidence that is does so, but it may lessen the duration of a cold. It has been proven to prevent the disease, scurvy.
Vitamin E is often taken as a supplement, but it is naturally contained in many foods. This vitamin helps your eyes and skin to stay healthy. It also boosts immunity. Stored in the liver until it is needed, Vitamin E can only be absorbed using fat from your diet.
What Foods Contain Antioxidants?
Beta-carotene is found in many fruits and vegetables. Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and corn are a few of the vegetables containing beta-carotene. Some of the fruits containing this antioxidant are peaches, apricots, pink grapefruit, and tangerines.
Vitamin C is contained in a variety of fruits and vegetables as well. Sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower are some of the vegetables containing Vitamin C. Strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, berries, and oranges are good fruit sources of Vitamin C.
Vitamin E is found in foods such as nuts, pumpkin, avocado, spinach, and sunflower seeds. There are other antioxidants such as zinc and selenium that offer health benefits. Zinc is found in red meat, seafood, dairy products, and poultry. Foods containing selenium include tuna, grain products, and beef.
What are the Benefits of Eating Food Rich in Antioxidants?
Boosting the immune system is one of the benefits of eating food that is rich in antioxidants. Foods that contain Vitamins A, C, and E suppress free radicals. This is beneficial for stopping different types of cancer and can help to strengthen the immune system of people with HIV.
In addition to improving your overall health, studies have shown that antioxidants can offer protection against several different diseases such as Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration.
Although many supplements are sold containing these antioxidants, obtaining them naturally through a healthy diet has been shown to be more beneficial. The body does produce antioxidants naturally (i.e. the "master antioxidant" glutathione) to decrease the effects of free radicals, but the benefits are increased with the help of antioxidants from a healthy diet. As your body ages, it does not produce as many natural antioxidants.
Maintaining a high level of antioxidants may help to slow down aging. There are some studies showing that they may be helpful for reversing the loss of memory or preventing it, particularly antioxidants in foods rich in Vitamins C and E. Combining certain antioxidant-foods has also shown advantages.
One example is antioxidants found in spinach, strawberries, and blueberries. When combined, they aid in protecting the nervous system. They restrict an enzyme that is present in neurological disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and autism.
Coffee and tea drinkers can benefit from the antioxidants in their morning beverage. There have been some studies showing that tea and coffee contain polyphenol antioxidants that stop the oxidation of fats. Polyphenols are micronutrients found in foods. The oxidation of fats can cause extensive inflammation as well as increasing the chance for diabetes and heart disease.
Can Antioxidants Help You to Live a Longer More Active Life?
Free radicals can cause damage to your DNA. This damage can cause healthy cells to operate differently. They may begin to reproduce out of control, and tumors can form. The tumors can be cancerous. Some studies have shown when you eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, you may have a lowered risk of certain cancers.
When you consume foods that have shown to reduce the incidence of certain diseases, as well as slowing the aging process, this improves the chance that you will feel better because you are healthier. The healthier you are, the more active you can be, and this can help you to live longer.
Many times a disease is contracted because the immune system is weak. Among other beneficial aspects, antioxidants help to boost the immune system. Your immune system is essential to fighting off disease and illness to help keep you healthy.