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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Importance of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation or restrain the reactions promoted by oxygen or peroxides. These substances are very useful to the health of every human being in that they help to fight or dislodge free radicals that cause untold damages to the human system. For example, when you cut open an apple or a tuber of yam, it turns brown. This is oxidation taking place; when your skin is cut, it looks raw and becomes inflamed, etc. 

This same process happens in all manner of cells whether plants or animals including the ones inside our body. In the body free radicals are high-energy particles that run loose, bouncing on and off wildly and damaging cells. Luckily antioxidants are found in our foods; they are richly stuffed especially in a certain group of fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are the answers nature has provided in various quantities for us in our foods through vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes. They are out to put a stop to oxidation.

Everyone and especially sufferers of hypertension and diabetes should never joke with foods that are rich in antioxidants. Thus foods rich in antioxidants are able to deal with the problems of arteriosclerosis or a disease of the arteries which manifest in the hardening of the arteries. This invariably means the clogging of the arterial walls. In this situation, the bad cholesterol (fat) is deposited on the arterial walls thereby inducing the heart to come under pressure because of the abnormal constriction of the blood vessels.

Grapefruit - a rich source of antioxidants

It is now an established fact that these free radical scavengers we call antioxidants are the best remedy for heart disease, high blood cholesterol, and even cancer. It is therefore most advisory for everyone to ensure they consume a lot of foods that are high in antioxidants. There are several sources of antioxidants and they are chiefly plant derivatives in the form of phytonutrients and, or plant chemicals such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Beta-Carotene. In recent times however, researchers have come to discover some other smaller but also very vital plant chemicals as powerful antioxidants apart from the afore-mentioned three popular categories. These are complex forms of antioxidants like – Quercetin, luteolin, hesperetin, catetchin, epicatechin, and epigallocetechin.

Vitamin C: Generally, citrus fruits are noted for their high content of vitamin C and consequently, possessing high caliber of antioxidants. Citrus fruits usually include fruits of the, as I would put it – Orange family; these are namely – Orange, Grape fruit, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine, and Tangelo. Apart from the citrus family, we also have in this category – Indian goose berry, strawberries, black currants, brussel sprouts, kiwi fruit, raw cabbage, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, parsnip, and tomatoes.

Vitamin C as a major antioxidant component is very vital for the healing of tissues, strengthening of gums and teeth. It has also shown according to modern medical research to be capable of fighting depression as well as preventing and curing acute gum margin inflammation, a disease condition common with diabetes patients.

Vitamin E: On the other hand, foods rich in vitamin E are also potential antioxidants; these may include a variety of nuts, seeds, Soya beans, Whole grains, and Vegetable oils such as Sunflower oil. Others are Fish liver oils, and Green vegetables.

Beta-Carotene: This is an isomer of carotene that is found in certain foods. This all important food component, also an antioxidant, is richly found in foods such as – Dark green leafy vegetables, Yellow and orange vegetables and fruits, like spinach, broccoli, peas, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, cherries, mangoes and melons.
Antioxidants are what your body needs as a form of defense against cell damages caused by free radicals. It is even more crucial this day and age considering the nature of the environments we live in today.

Modern day environment contributes so much to the breakdown of the body’s defense mechanisms by causing free radicals in the human system: thus exhaust fumes from industries, and especially power generators like in a country like Nigeria due to lack of adequate public power supply, are some of the biggest causative agents. Also, cigarette smoke, alcohol and other factors and pollutants are major culprits. Even the foods and water we drink sometimes contain free radical ‘toxins’, and as such we need to consume lots, and varieties of fruits and vegetables unlike was the case some 200 years ago for instance. 

Tomatoes are  good sources of antioxidants

It is worthy of note that there is no a ‘do it all food’ or form of antioxidant that you need to take all the time. But rather we need to eat a variety of antioxidant rich foods because some antioxidants are good at dealing with certain free radicals while others will deal better with another set of free radicals. This approach is the best way you can fully protect yourself from the damaging effects of these cell killers and disease forming agents.

And in as much as food supplements are equally a good way of enriching your dietary intake, you are however advised to be careful because excess of these can be harmful as well. But I know also that among these supplements that are available, Aloe-Vera (drink) supplements have proven to be a very potent fighter of free radicals.

By Morgan Nwanguma

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