by Anna Van Den Broek
The persistent publicity given to anti-aging effects of antioxidants has increased the sales of supplements and cosmetics, but its true value is more than skin deep. So what are antioxidants?
These are chemical compounds and substances that counter the negative effects of oxidation in your bodies. Oxidation generates by-products called free radicals, which are produced when you are exposed to cigarette smoke, the sun, and large amounts of heavy metals, among many others.
When free radicals outnumber the antioxidants in your body, they can damage healthy cells. This process is linked to inflammation, aging, and a number of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
The role of antioxidants is to neutralize the action of free radicals. The body produces a range of its own. Plants also produce hundreds of it for their own protection. Many that are useful to you can be found in vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, nuts, and whole grains.
Tea, coffee, extra virgin olive oil, red wine, and dark bitter chocolate are rich in antioxidants. Those found in food may boost the body’s own supply, and these may become more important as you age and produce more of it.
So what is the best way to consume antioxidants?
It is possible to get all the nutrients needed by the body from plenty and a variety of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, whole-grain cereal foods, reduced-fat dairy foods, lean meats, fish (look for those high in omega-3 content), poultry, and from small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and oils.
It is also possible to obtain them from diet supplements, such as tablets containing vitamins and minerals.
Some antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and copper are the more popular choices. Much of the marketing of antioxidants concentrates on these well-known vitamins and minerals, but the complex array present naturally in plants may be more important.
The human diet contains literally thousands of these substances. It is probable that they work most effectively in combination with one another, enhancing the actions that the other does.
On its own, things simply don’t work in the same way. When they are consumed as part of the diet, other substances present in food may help them provide their full potential benefit.
Make sure to include antioxidants in your diet because the degenerative conditions caused by free radicals include deterioration of sight, arthritis, damage of nerve cells in the brain, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, accelerated aging, high risks for coronary heart disease, and certain cancers triggered by the damage of cell DNA.
Death tolls have certainly increased because of the number of antioxidants found in the environment. It seems as if people no longer take care of themselves as well as they used to. It’s time to do something about it before things are too late.
The effects of free radicals are so grave that many people spend their most of their lives suffering from it. Work on your diet and learn to appreciate fruits and vegetables more. That way, you know you’re taking care of yourself as well.