Studies are showing again and again that natural antioxidants have the ability to fight against the free radicals that damage the body. It is thought that adding powerful antioxidants to one’s diet can have major health benefits, including a decrease in both heart disease and cancer.
To better appreciate the use of natural antioxidants, it is helpful to understand a bit more about how human digestion works. As various compounds are broken down in the body, they are transformed into energy and substances. Some of these substances do damage, and that’s where potent antioxidants can be beneficial.
Oxygen is the key in the process of breaking down food, which is why the resulting molecules are considered to be “oxidized.” Through various processes, the oxygen in a molecule loses electrons. This results in a positively charged molecule that steals electrons from other molecules in order to try and rebalance its own neutral state. Some of these molecules or partial molecules go on to cause significant damage if they’re not neutralized. That is where “antioxidants” come into play.
The positively charged molecules created during the oxidation process are called “free radicals,” and as they seek out electrons, they damage cells within the body. These cells then die or become poisoned. Antioxidants are able to neutralize these free radicals before they are able to set off chain reactions that damage and kill cells. Some natural antioxidants also have the job of repairing this type of damage once it has already been done.
The body helps to regulate some of this by creating its own natural antioxidants, such as catalase and glutathione perixidas. We are also able to introduce additional natural antioxidants through the diet. Unfortunately, modern diets generally offer a very low level of antioxidants. The best sources for the most potent antioxidants are living organisms such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Common health benefits of natural antioxidants:
• Decreased risk for stroke
• Decreased risk for cancer
• Decreased risk for macular degeneration
• Decreased risk for diabetes
• Decreased risk for other heart diseases
The most well-known and potent antioxidants available through the diet include vitamin A (found in apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, kale, peaches, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes), vitamin C (found in broccoli, green leafy vegetables, green peppers, kiwi, limes, oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes), and vitamin E (found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seed, and whole grains).
Elements like iron and selenium are also natural antioxidants that can be introduced to the diet through chicken, eggs, fish, grains, red meat, and shellfish. Finally, there are other vitamin-like antioxidants that can do a lot of good, including coenzyme Q10 and glutathione.
For those who do not eat enough of these healthy foods to enjoy the benefits of natural antioxidants, supplements may be helpful, especially those made from natural whole food ingredients. These types of supplements utilize foods that the body recognizes for better bio-availability, or the body’s ability to access and use these potent antioxidants.
Stress can also play a role in the oxidation of molecules, so stress reduction is another beneficial way to combat free radicals. For those with more stress, an increased level of natural antioxidant foods and supplements can help to offset and prevent some of the damage. As with all things diet related, balance, both of work-life stress and of potent antioxidant foods and supplements, is the key to improved health and well being.
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