Health benefits of antioxidants

Antioxidants, as the name suggests are molecules that are capable of stopping or slowing down the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is one of the natural chemical reactions that occur in the body. Although it is essential for sustaining life, it may in some ways be damaging. During the course of oxidation, chain reactions may be triggered due to the production of free radicals which can cause the damage to body cells. The work of an Antioxidant is to abate these chain reactions. Antioxidants have therefore also been termed ‘free-radical scavengers’.

Free radicals are often linked with cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other ailments associated with aging like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. One of the important antioxidant benefits, therefore, is the anti-aging effect produced by the inhibition of free radicals. As we age, the body produces fewer antioxidants. Due to this, cellular damage and waste produced from incomplete cellular repair accumulates in the body, speeding up the process of aging. Scientists now say that supplementing a diet with antioxidants can drastically slow down aging.

Antioxidants are also needed for the immune system to function properly. The free radical level in immune cells needs to be maintained at a certain level, which is done by antioxidants. All the health benefits of antioxidants can be felt when there is a proper balance maintained between antioxidants and free radicals in the body cells. If there is an imbalance, it could lead to a weak immune system.

One more important antioxidant benefit is reduction in cataract risk. Cataracts may be caused by protein oxidation in the eye. Several studies prove that beta-carotene and vitamins C and E can help in the prevention of lens clouding.

Some of the complex and varied types of antioxidants maintained by animals and plants include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Glutathione and enzymes such as peroxidases, catalase and superoxide dismutase. Oxidative stress is the term used to describe a condition of low levels or antioxidants which can cause damage or death of natural cells.

Hence, they form an important ingredient in several dietary supplements.

Antioxidants are nutrients that are naturally present in many vegetables and fruits. Some of the other antioxidant benefits include a stronger immunity and resistance to infections or viruses, prevention of glaucoma and anti-aging. Listed below are some of the important Antioxidants including their benefits and sources:

Vitamin E: This essential vitamin protects essential fat in the red blood cells and other cell membranes. Vitamin E antioxidant benefits are the reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and other disease that are associated with age. Sources: Nuts, vegetable oils and margarine, avocado, whole grains, salad dressings, peanut butter, wheat germ, seeds.

Beta Carotene: The antioxidant benefits of Beta carotene are varied. It helps prevent infections, aids the growth and development of bones and keeps ailments such as night blindness at bay. Sources: Leafy green vegetables, mainly spinach and broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, tomatoes and other fruits, peppers and cantaloupe.

Vitamin C: It destroys free radicals that are produced during oxidation in the body. Healing of wounds, absorption of iron into the body, healthy gums and prevention of bruising are some of its varied Antioxidant benefits. Vitamin C is also known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cataracts. Sources: Citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, papaya, mango, tomatoes, peppers, berries, potatoes.

Selenium: It is essential to enhance immunity in the body. This antioxidant benefits humans by working along with Vitamin E in protecting cells from damage. It is needed to have healthy nails and hair, and lower risk of prostate and lung cancer. Sources: Brazil nuts, seafood, eggs, meat, poultry, whole grains.


Last updated on Apr 16th, 2010 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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