Antioxidants has been the buzzword in the health circles in recent years. Zealots even term antioxidant foods the end-all be-all of the health world. Are antioxidants really such a wonder thing? Are they panacea of all ills the human body faces or they are just over-hyped elements? Let’s unlock the mystery.
Blocking Free Radicals
Antioxidants defend the body against the free radicals which are produced during the process of oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical process which transfers hydrogen or electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. The chemical reaction produces free radicals. When defence mechanism of the body fails to control the amount of free radicals, they can start chain reactions that may result in damage or death of the cells. Antioxidants disrupt chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates and prevent other oxidation reactions.
Promoting Balanced Oxidation
Although balanced oxidation is crucial for life, an unhindered process could be damaging. Living beings maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants and if the body lacks them, you have to replenish the body with them.
Some vitamins have antioxidant potential, such as vitamins C and E. Some minerals have antioxidant properties, such as selenium and manganese, and there are plant compounds which resist oxidation, such as beta carotene and lycopene.
Types of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are segregated into several categories based on their chemical effect – Carotenoids, Flavonoids, Isothiocyanates, Resveratrol and Tannins. Herein are their possible effects and food sources:
Carotenoids neutralize free radicals, boost cellular defences against cancer and aging compounds and strengthen immune system. Food sources of Carotenoids are carrots, spinach, tomatoes, kale and collard greens.
Flavonoids enhance cellular antioxidant defences, contribute to maintenance of brain function, bolster immune defences, contribute to heart and urinary tract health. Food sources of Flavonoids are pears, apples, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, onions, cabbage, black tea, pinto beans, celery, green tea, olives, citrus fruits, purple oregano, purple grape juice, soy products, wine and whole wheat.
Isothiocyanates detoxify unwanted compounds, deactivate carcinogens and speed up their removal from the body. Food sources include broccoli cauliflower, turnips, kale, Brussels sprouts, collargds, cabbage, radish, watercress and bok choy.
Resveratrol prevent inflammation, reduce LDL cholesterol, prevent blood clots and protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Food sources are peanuts, blueberries, cranberries, red and purple grapes, and red wine.
Tannins have antibacterial and anti-parasitic effects. These have antiviral potential and may decrease the risk of cancer. Food sources are red and white wine, persimmons, lentils, nuts, pomegranates and green tea.
Does Exercise Boost the Ability of Antioxidants?
Regular exercise augments the ability of antioxidants to fight free radicals. However, when antioxidants in the body are below normal, sporadic exercise once in week, may cause oxidative stress. This happens because carbs and fats are transformed into energy through oxidation process during exercising. If the body lacks in antioxidants, it may result in increased number of free radicals after the exercise. Solution – exercise more, preferably 4-6 times a week.
It is important to take antioxidants foods and exercise regularly. As long as you stick to it, you can be ‘at peace’.