The day to day process of oxidation of various substances in our body produces numerous, chemically unstable molecules known as free radicals. These lead to potential cell damage and make the body susceptible to diseases like cancer and atherosclerosis.
Antioxidants, on the other hand, are natural or synthetic substances which get oxidized themselves.Thus, they neutralize these free radicals and decrease the damage caused to the cells, by protecting their cell membrane.
What is Oxidation?
Oxidation was known as a chemical reaction that breaks down any complex molecule in the presence of oxygen. In the modern world, it can be expressed as the loss of electrons from an atom or molecule.
The breaking of food, its transportation, its conversion into energy is an example of oxidation. This energy is used for production of enzymes, hormones and also, muscular movement. The whole process leads to formation of many free radicals.
Where do free radicals come from?
Free radicals are the product of some of these oxidation reactions. Free radicals might be generated through:
- By-products of general body processes such as release of digestive enzymes or breakdown of complex sugars.
- Breakdown of medicinal complexes.
- Pollutants encountered by our body.
What is Oxidative Stress?
When free radicals are produced more than the antioxidant defense of the body can handle, oxidative stress occurs. The free radicals have a charge either due to excess of electrons or due to their deficiency. During oxidative stress, the free radicals harm our cells, DNA and proteins, to find or donate extra electrons.
From where do we get Antioxidants?
Researches from all over the world suggest that there should be an apt amount of antioxidants in our daily diet, to keep free radicals at bay. Many antioxidant-rich foods are capable to keep the body healthy and also, fight processes like ageing.The important sources of antioxidants and its natural precursors are:
- Foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, containing Vitamins A, C and E
- Foods that contain vital trace minerals like manganese, zinc, selenium and copper.
- Plant-based substances like flavonoids, phenolic compounds, tannins, natural organic acids and some sulphur-containing compounds.
Why should you eat more Antioxidants?
When there is not enough antioxidant intake in the diet, encountering oxidative stress is not surprising. However, a balanced, antioxidant-rich diet coupled with supplements, can be used as a wise option.Listed here are some important roles played by antioxidants in the body:
1) Armor For The Heart
Frequent doses of antioxidants in the diet slow down the effect of the bad cholesterol, LDL, on the heart.
Antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits lower the risk of heart ailments. Teas and wine may have high flavonoid content which aids the protection.
2) Protecting The DNA
Free radicals can cause mutations in DNA, leading to their uncontrolled multiplication. This may cause cancerous tumors.
Phytochemicals like Carotenoids present in fruits and vegetables are said to immobilize these free radicals.
3) Check On Diabetes
Elevated blood sugar levels produce many fast moving free radicals, which may include lots of complications in diabetes such as organ failure, blindness and nerve damage.
Researches show that, alpha lipoic acid in green veggies, resveratrol in red wine and quercetin in apples and onions may hamper the free radical.
4) Defense Against Alzheimer’s
Free radicals bring a great damage to brain cells. They can form clumps of proteins in the brain called amyloids indicating Alzheimer’s.
The appropriate addition of Vitamin C and E in the diet may lower the risk of dementia.
Why Antioxidant supplements?
Though major studies have shown whole food derived antioxidants to work best, some supplements may encourage other health hazards for the cost of protection against one. A well balanced diet should always be a priority.
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