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What you need to know about Antioxidants

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances that help to fight free radicals in the body. They work by preventing or slowing the cell damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants can be of natural or artificial sources. The body produces its own antioxidants in its defense against free radicals. Antioxidants can also be found in certain foods of both plant and animal origin.

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that are produced in the body as a product of metabolism, or as a result of certain lifestyle and environmental factors such as exposure to radiation and smoking.

Free radicals are actually necessary in the body as they help to protect our cells against bacteria and infection. However, once present in high levels, they can be harmful to health and increase the risk of certain illnesses such as arthritis, heart diseases, diabetes and cancer.

What causes Free Radicals in the body?

The body produces free radicals. However, in most cases, the presence of excess free radicals in the body can be traced to several lifestyle and environmental factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Excess exposure to sun rays
  • Air pollution
  • Cigarette and tobacco smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Infections
  • Excessive exercise which can lead to tissue damage
  • Excess consumption of processed foods
  • Antioxidant Deficiency
  • Exposure to toxins and chemicals

What are examples of food high in Antioxidants?

Our diet plays an important role in the development of antioxidants in our bodies. Antioxidants taken into the body come in the form of Vitamin A, C & E and beta-carotene, among others.

The following are examples of foods that are high in antioxidants:

  • Vegetables
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges
  • Berries
  • Dark chocolate
  • Tomatoes
  • Dairy produce such as milk and eggs
  • Whole grain foods such as rice, corn and wheat
  • Beans or kidney beans

It is commonly believed that the more rich and vibrant-looking the color of a food or fruit is, the higher it is in antioxidants.

Antioxidant Supplements

Supplements are another way of obtaining antioxidants. Many antioxidant supplements claim to prevent illnesses associated with excess free radicals such as diabetes, vision problems and cancer. They also claim to help slow the aging process. However, studies have shown that taking antioxidant supplements do not necessarily provide these health benefits as marketed, and recommend a rich diet and lifestyle changes instead.

Ways to keep Free Radicals away

The following are suggested ways to reduce oxidative stress in the body:

  1. Fill your diet plan with foods rich and colorful.
  2. Exercise regularly or increase your physical activity.
  3. Avoid smoking cigarettes and tobacco.
  4. Avoid excessive exposure to the sun.
  5. Cut down on processed foods.
  6. Rest.

Can there be too many antioxidants in the body?

Yes. When present in high concentrations, antioxidants can have the opposite effect by overwhelming the free radicals in the body and disrupting them from functioning properly.

Summary

  • Free radicals protect the body but can be harmful when in excess.
  • Antioxidants can neutralize the effects of free radicals, especially when they pose a threat to our health.
  • The body produces antioxidants, but they can also be obtained from food sources.
  • Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants.
  • A healthy diet and lifestyle can help to prevent oxidative stress.
  • Consult your healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

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