The importance and power of antioxidants that have the ability to boost our immune system and thus general health, is huge. Antioxidants combat free radicals caused by a diet rich in additives, stress, exposure to electronic magnetic radiation and pollutants in the air and water.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, thereby leading to chain reactions that may damage the cells of organs.
Antioxidants protect cells against the effects of free radicals which are produced as a result of the body breaking down food for production of energy, from stress, or when exposed to tobacco smoke, and other contaminants such as PCB’s, and radiation.
How do free radicals get into the body?
Free radicals not only enter the body via the mouth and nose, but also through the skin. Free radicals steal electrons, thus causing instability in the body’s chemical reactions, which at some point may lead to initiating the disease process.
Antioxidants are electron donors that combat free radical activity, maintaining the stability of the cell and inhibiting the initiation of a disease process.
Is stealing electrons really THAT bad?
As mentioned, free radicals steal electrons from cells in the body. This electron theft can radically alter the structure or function of the cell with the capability to change the instructions coded into a strand of DNA.
Free radicals may also alter the cell membrane, thus changing the flow of what enters, for example nutrients, and what leaves the cell in the form of waste.
They also have the capability to affect LDL (low-density lipoprotein molecules) cholesterol, which as a result are more likely to get trapped in the artery walls, potentially causing a build up of plaque and ultimately damage the cardiovascular system.
Antioxidants to the rescue
Antioxidants came to public attention in the 1990s, when scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis and may contribute to cancer, vision loss, and a host of other chronic conditions.
Some studies showed that people with low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were at greater risk for developing these chronic conditions than were people who ate plenty of these fruits and vegetables.
There are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals including glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione-S-transferase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD). Antioxidants add to this arsenal.
How can you get more antioxidants?
Found primarily in fruit and vegetables, antioxidants are not electron scavengers themselves, as they work by giving electrons to free radicals.
The most familiar antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, carotinoids including beta-carotene found in yellow and orange vegetables as well as minerals selenium and manganese.
These are joined by several other food constituents including phenols, polyphenols, flavonoids and phytoestrogens all found in fruit and vegetables.
The best way to get a variety of antioxidants in the diet is to eat fruit and vegetables that represent all the colours of the rainbow.
Why eat a whole range of different coloured vegetables?
Each colour has its own unique antioxidant effect. Bright orange, deep yellow in fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and apricots provide one type of antioxidant. Red foods such as tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries provide a different antioxidant. Green vegetables, including broccoli and cabbage, and blue or purple foods, for example blueberries, blackcurrants and aubergine also have their own antioxidant constituents.
Tips to increase antioxidants in your system:
- Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. Organic where possible.
- Minimise exposure to electro magnetic radiation by switching off wifi in your home at night.
- Use stress management techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, pilates, tai chi and chi gong on a regular basis.
- Keep all electronic equipment out of the bedroom whilst sleeping
- Drink plenty of filtered water on a daily basis to keep the mind and body hydrated. Minimum 1.5 litres a day
- Stop smoking
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