Are antioxidants good for you?
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage caused by oxidants thus the name Antioxidants. The human body naturally produces free radicals and the antioxidants to counteract their damaging effects. We all know that oxygen is one of the most essential components for the human body. But oxygen is also a highly reactive atom that is capable of becoming part of potentially damaging molecules commonly called free radicals.
These free radicals are capable of attacking the healthy cells of the body. This may lead to damage, disease and severe disorders. Cell damage caused by free radicals appears to be a major contributor to aging and diseases like:
- Heart disease
- Decline in brain function
- Decline in immune system etc.
Normally free radical formation is controlled naturally by various beneficial compounds known as antioxidants. When there is deficiency of these antioxidants damage due to free radicals can become cumulative and debilitating. Antioxidants are capable of stabilizing, or deactivating, free radicals before they attack cells.
Antioxidants occur naturally in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, wine, and chocolate. While there are thousands of antioxidant compounds out there, you’ve probably heard of flavanols (found in chocolate), resveratrol (found in wine), and lycopene (found in tomatoes). Other popular antioxidants include vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, E, and catechins.
Benefits of Antioxidants
According to besthealthmag, the following are the benefits of antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect your heart
Even though studies haven’t shown conclusively that antioxidant supplements prevent heart disease, there’s no doubt that your diet must include frequent doses of antioxidants to keep LDL cholesterol, the “bad” stuff, from turning even worse. Oxidized cholesterol that is, cholesterol that’s been attacked by free radicals is more likely to burrow into artery walls. Once cholesterol makes its way there, it’s even more likely to become oxidized. When this happens, your immune system senses trouble and responds by sending white blood cells to the scene. These defender cells devour cholesterol, turning into frothy blobs called foam cells. As these fat-filled cells accumulate, they form raised patches called plaques, which narrow arteries. Plaques can erupt, blocking the artery and causing a heart attack.
People who eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables have a low risk of heart disease, many studies have shown. Other good sources of heart-healthy antioxidants include tea and wine; both beverages contain high concentrations of flavonoids. Studies suggest that eating a diet high in flavonoids may lower the risk of heart disease by up to 65 percent.
Antioxidant protect your DNA
Free radicals can damage the DNA in healthy cells, which may alter their operating instructions and cause them to reproduce uncontrollably and form cancerous tumors. People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a low risk for some types of cancer. Lab studies show that phytochemicals stifle the growth of tumors in various ways, including by scavenging and demobilizing free radicals.
In particular, studies have revealed low rates of prostate cancer among men who consume a lot of tomatoes and cooked tomato products, which contain the carotenoid lycopene. One study found a 64 percent reduction in prostate cancer among men who consumed the most beta-carotene, a carotenoid that’s found in carrots and other yellow or orange fruit and vegetables.
Antioxidants control diabetes complications
High blood sugar seems to speed up production of some unusually nasty free radicals. These destructive molecules probably cause many of the complications that make diabetes so frightening, such as blindness, nerve damage, and kidney failure.
Some promising signs suggest that antioxidants could alleviate some diabetes symptoms. For instance, European studies have shown that dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (found in spinach, broccoli, and beef) may relieve the pain and discomfort of diabetic neuropathy. Scientists in India have shown that the antioxidant compound curcumin, which gives the spice turmeric its yellow color, slowed kidney damage in diabetic rats. The antioxidants resveratrol (found in red wine) and quercetin (apples and onions are good sources) had a similar effect.
Some phytochemicals may even offer protection against diabetes itself. In a Finnish study of more than 4,300 nondiabetic men and women whom researchers followed for 23 years, those who ate the most of a type of carotenoid found in citrus fruits, red bell peppers, papaya, cilantro, corn, and watermelon cut their risk of type 2 diabetes by 42 percent.
Defend against dementia
Brain cells of people diagnosed with devastating cognitive conditions show evidence of damage by free radicals. What’s more, free radicals seem to be one cause of the clumps of proteins in the brain, called amyloids that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
No one is sure how to prevent Alzheimer’s, but eating more oranges and whole-grain bread could be a good start. Human studies offer clues that vitamins C and E may be your brain’s best defense. Dutch researchers asked more than 5,000 people over age 55 about their diets, then followed them for six years. In the end, people who consumed the most vitamin C reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by 34 percent, while diets rich in vitamin E appeared to be even more protective, slashing the threat of dementia by nearly half.
It’s less clear whether taking high doses of antioxidants will do an even better job of safeguarding the brain. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that taking daily supplements containing 2,000 IU of vitamin E or about 66 times more than you’ll find in a multivitamin appeared to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. However, other studies have failed to show that vitamin E pills protect the brain.
Antioxidants are good for your sight
Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A’an essential nutrient for healthy eyes. But the latest research suggests that other antioxidant phytochemicals may also be critical for preserving vision. Take lutein, another carotenoid like beta-carotene, which is found in hefty amounts in spinach, kale and collard greens. Retina cells at the back of the eyeball soak up lutein, apparently to ward off free radicals. When researchers analyzed the diets of more than 1,700 female volunteers in Iowa, Oregon and Wisconsin, they found that women under 75 who ate plenty of foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, another carotenoid, appeared to halve their risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older folks.
Consuming lots of foods filled with these antioxidants may help prevent cataracts, too. So eat your carrots, but don’t skimp on the leafy greens, squash, corn or peas, all of which are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, as are egg yolks, honeydew and kiwifruit.
Foods rich in Antioxidants
Foods rich in different Antioxidants
The following is a list of different kinds of antioxidants and foods that are high in each.
- Allium Sulphur compounds: Leeks, onions, garlic
- Anthocyanins: Eggplant, grapes, berries
- Beta carotene: Pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, parsley
- Catechins: Red wine, tea
- Copper: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts, legumes
- Cryptoxanthins: Red peppers, pumpkin, mangoes
- Flavonoids: Tea, green tea, red wine, citrus fruits, onion, apples
- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
- Lignans: Sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables
- Lutein: Corn, leafy greens (such as spinach)
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon
- Manganese: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Polyphenols: Thyme, oregano
- Selenium: Seafood, offal, lean meat, whole grains
- Vitamin C: Oranges, berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers
- Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, seeds, whole grains
- Zinc: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Zoochemicals: Red meat, offal, fish
Foods by Antioxidants content
|Rank||Food item||Serving size||Total antioxidant capacity per serving size|
|1||Small Red Bean (dried)||Half cup||13,727|
|2||Wild blueberry||1 cup||13,427|
|3||Red kidney bean (dried)||Half cup||13,259|
|4||Pinto bean||Half cup||11,864|
|5||Blueberry (cultivated)||1 cup||9,019|
|6||Cranberry||1 cup (whole)||8,983|
|7||Artichoke (cooked)||1 cup (hearts)||7,904|
|12||Red Delicious apple||1 whole||5,900|
|13||Granny Smith apple||1 whole||5,381|
|15||Sweet cherry||1 cup||4,873|
|16||Black plum||1 whole||4,844|
|17||Russet potato (cooked)||1 whole||4,649|
|18||Black bean (dried)||Half cup||4,181|
|20||Gala apple||1 whole||3,903|