The Importance of Antioxidants
Antioxidants can cancel out the cell-damaging effects of free radicals. You can read more about free radicals and their role in aging and illness here. People who eat a healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants, have a lower risk of heart disease and some neurological diseases. There is ample clinical evidence that antioxidants may also help prevent a variety of diseases such as macular degeneration, suppressed immunity, and neurodegeneration and cancer.
The antioxidant enzymes are synthesized in the body. They initiate processes which ultimately channel the excessive, damaging energies of free radicals into producing harmless substances such as water and oxygen. These enzymes include.
- glutathione peroxidase
- superoxide dismutase
They are produced and function in most cells of the body and it is through their activity that we do not spoil and rot. In fact, the reason we rot and decay after we die is because our body stops producing these enzymes.
The body also increase production of antioxidant enzymes in reaction to increased levels of free radicals. For instance, trained athletes usually have higher levels of antioxidant enzymes because their bodies have adjusted to deal with the extra free radicals from extra metabolism from strenuous exercise. However, our body’s production of antioxidant enzyme is limited and must be supplemented from antioxidant nutrients from food. This is especially prevalent as modern society exposes us to more free radicals than ever before.
Unlike the enzymes, antioxidant nutrients are not made in the body but are supplied in such foods as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. After being absorbed during digestion, they travel in the bloodstream and localize in all the cells and organs to neutralize free radicals. This is why a proper diet is an important aspect of a successful detox program. As the antioxidants neutralize free-radicals in the body, they are used up and eliminated from the body. Thus it is important to supply our body with a healthy amount of these nutrients on a daily basis.
Here is a comprehensive list of vitamins, herbs, foods and other compounds that contain antioxidant nutrients:
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin A (retinol), also synthesized by the body from beta-carotene, protects dark green, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits from solar radiation damage, and is thought to play a similar role in the human body. Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (which gain their color from the compound lycopene), kale, seabuckthorn, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots are particularly rich sources of beta-carotene.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble compound that fulfills several roles in living systems. Important sources include citrus fruits (such as oranges, sweet lime, etc.), green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, black currants, strawberries, blueberries, seabuckthorn, raw cabbage and tomatoes.
Vitamin E including tocotrienol and tocopherol, is fat soluble and protects lipids. Sources include wheat germ, seabuckthorn, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil, and fish-liver oil. Alpha-tocopherol is the main form in which vitamin E is consumed.
Zinc is one of the most common mineral deficiencies. Best Bet Food Sources: Raw, hulled pumpkin seeds and other nuts, oatmeal, eggs, parsley, wheat germ
Selenium has become a central topic of discussion in the debate on trace elements in which some doctors have dismissed the mineral as humbug, while others recommend it as a valuable component in preventative medicine, or even prescribe it as part of a course of treatment.
Soy & Isoflavones. Research suggests that soy may offer a number of health benefits related to menopause symptom relief, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, immunity and cancer
Lycopene is found in high concentration in ripe red tomatoes.
Lutein is found in high concentration in spinach and red peppers.
Beta-carotene is found in high concentrations in butternut squash, carrots, orange bell peppers, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.
Zeaxanthin is the main pigment found in yellow corn.
Astaxanthin is found naturally in red algae and animals higher in the marine food chain. It is a red pigment familiarly recognized in crustacean shells and salmon flesh/roe.
Ellagic acid – found in high concentration in raspberry and strawberry, and in ester form in red wine tannins.
Gallic acid – found in gallnuts, sumac, witch hazel, tea leaves, oak bark, and many other plants.
Salicylic acid – found in most vegetables, fruits, and herbs; but most abundantly in the bark of willow trees, from where it was extracted for use in the early manufacture of aspirin.
Rosmarinic acid – found in high concentration in rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, sage, and marjoram.
Cinnamic acid and its derivatives, such as ferulic acid – found in seeds of plants such as in brown rice, whole wheat and oats, as well as in coffee, apple, artichoke, peanut, orange and pineapple.
Chlorogenic acid – found in high concentration in coffee
Chicoric acid – another caffeic acid derivative, is found only in the popular medicinal herb Echinacea purpurea.
Other organic antioxidants
Citric acid, oxalic acid, and phytic acid
Lignan – antioxidant and phytoestrogen found in oats, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, rye, soybeans, broccoli, beans, and some berries.
Bilirubin, a breakdown product of blood, has been identified as a possibly significant antioxidant.
Spices and Herbs
Cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, curry powder, mustard seed, ginger, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic, coriander, onion and cardamom, sage, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, peppermint, oregano, savory, basil and dill weed all have a large concentration of anti-oxidants.
Cranberries, blueberries, plums, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, apples, strawberries, red currants, figs, cherries, gooseberry, pears, guava, peaches, oranges, apricots, mango, grape juice and pomegranate are fruits with large concentration of anti-oxidants.
Artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, beetroot, radish, potato and raw lettuce and frozen spinach are vegetables with large concentration of anti-oxidants.