What are antioxidants, why are they important and where can I find them?

Published : 29.06.2017 12:35:03
Categories : Minerals , Nutrition , Vitamins

Antioxidants prevents free radicals from damaging our cells

Antioxidants, as its name indicates, prevents the oxidation of our molecules which forms free radicals. These free radicals are highly reactive and when combined with substances (e.g. DNA, protein, LDL), can damage our cells and harm our body.

By consuming and keeping a proper ratio of antioxidants in our system, we stabilise these free radicals and prevent these reactions from happening in order to stay healthy.

What incites oxidation?

The creation of free radicals through oxidative stress if produced through factors such as:

  • Inflammation
  • Air pollution
  • Radiation
  • UV light
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Junk & over processed foods packed with chemicals
  • Over and under eating
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Toxins
  • Sleep deprivation

In summary, anything unhealthy will lead to your cells not working properly which could lead to oxidative stress!

Diseases caused by oxidative stress

The over oxidation of substances is thought to be involved in the development of:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Cataracts

These complications occur because the free radicals are oxidise with elements such as DNA (causing cancer), proteins (causing cataracts) and LDL (causing atherosclerosis). Consequently, to prevent this from happening, we provide antioxidants to stabilise these compounds before they bond to the above.

2 “types” of antioxidants and where to find them

Type

Element

Source (not exclusive)

RDA

Direct antioxidants

Vit E

Vegetable oils, nuts & seeds

1500 IU

Vit C

Fruits & vegetables

80 mg

Carotenoid (precursor to Vit A)

Fruits, vegetables and eggs

800 ug

Selenium

Seafood, cereal grains & yeast

55 ug

Indirect antioxidants (cofactors to antioxidative enzymes)

Copper

Beef liver, cacao, legumes, dried apricots

1 mg

Iron

Red meats, seafood, dark leafy vegetables, peas & beans

14 mg

Manganese

Nuts, leafy vegetables, whole grains, teas

2 mg

Zinc

Nuts, seeds, meats, legumes, seafood, whole grains

10 mg

I will not expand on the levels of antioxidants found in herbs and spices. But since they are packed with antioxidants and taste amazing, it is important to cook different cuisines in order to exploit these properties. You can also buy these herb's essential oils to include in your diet!

How much daily antioxidant do we need?

We have all heard of the 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day as promoted by various health authorities (there is a reason for that!). Furthermore, we are also expected to consume 6-11 portions of grains (at least half of which are whole grain).

It is not recommended to take synthetic nutritional supplements to consume these antioxidants, but should rather all come from natural sources.

My personal recommendation: I up the fruits & vegetables intake to 7-10 portions while trying to maintain the 6-11 portions of grains.

Too much antioxidant can be harmful!

Just like anything in life, always seek a balance and do not over indulge! Simply eat a varied and balanced diet (check out my basic rules to healthy eating blog post) and share it with your “healthy looking friends” to compare your habits!

One particular example is high consumption of beta-carotene have shown to increase risk of lung cancer in smokers. This will not be a problem should you live a healthy smoke free life!

Not all reactive oxygen species are bad for you

Some reactive oxygen species is beneficial for the body as they are used by our immune system to attack pathogens and prevent aging.

This is why it is very important to not start eating goji berries by the bucket full, but to balance the intake to let the body do its work!


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