Antioxidants are substances that help in preventing cell damage and repairing injuries to body cells.
Our body naturally produces free radicals, which are highly reactive chemicals. Presence of abundant quantity of free radicals is not good for our health.
These free radicals react with different cells causing physical damage to the cell components and structures including DNA, proteins & cell membranes and affecting the normal functioning of the cells by impairing or inactivating parts of cells. At the larger level, these constant damages to cells may result in developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, ageing, cancer and many more serious illnesses.
Antioxidants largely protect our cells from these damages.
Antioxidants are substances that prevent these free radicals to react with body cell parts and thus avoid damage to them. The antioxidants neutralizes these free radicals by safely reacting with them and blocking the chain reaction that results in long-term damage to the cells. Additionally, antioxidants promote self-healing mechanism of the body to repair the damages happened to the cell parts.
Our body produces some antioxidants naturally, however it relies mainly on external source (diet) to obtain adequate quantity of antioxidants.
Most of the antioxidants come from plant sources such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, whole-grain food, nuts and spices are rich in many different types of antioxidants.
Some common antioxidants are: (read colouring your diet)
- Allicin (White tans and brown fruits and vegetables)
- Beta carotenes (various fruits and vegetables)
- Vitamins C and E (various fruits and vegetables)
- Anthocyanin (Green, blue and red fruits and vegetables)
- Bioflavonoids (Orange to yellow fruits and vegetables)
- Lycopene (Green and red fruits and vegetables)
They also come in the form of dietary supplements, but it is better to consume variety of fruits and vegetables regularly to be able obtain different kinds of antioxidants.
Possible Health Benefits
Available scientific evidence supports plants origin foods are good source of antioxidants.
Not enough scientific research is conducted to study the long-term effects and direct health impact of these antioxidant-rich natural produce.
However, many scientific studies support that antioxidant-rich diet provide protection against cardiovascular diseases. For example, Beet root is rich in nitrates, betaine and other antioxidants (betacyanin). Nitrates are chemicals that improve blood flow in blood vessels. Research studies support use of beet root in lowering blood pressure, dementia and exercise performance. Similarly, Garlic contains vitamin B6, manganese and selenium and other antioxidants (allicin) that helps in lowering cholesterol and reducing risk of some cancers. Blueberries contains antioxidant anthocyanin, found associated in relaxing walls of arteries and thus lowering the risk of heart disease and improving memory.
In many studies, it was found that presence of adequate quantities of antioxidants greatly reduce the specific damage to the cells caused by free radicals and thus many types of cancers can be prevented or risk is reduced.
How to use
Preferably, antioxidants should be consumed by consuming vegetables, fruits, nuts (unsalted), seeds (unsalted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds) on regular basis.
Adopt seasonal eating
It is important to include fruits and vegetables in the diet that are naturally grown in that season. This is how nature provides mix of health benefits from plant nutrients. Such as carrots and oranges are healthy to consume in the winter season whereas mangoes and Okra (lady finger) are beneficial to eat in summer.
There are many fruits and vegetables that can be used in natural preserve form in off-season such as dates and grapes can used as dry fruits in off-season.
It is recommended to have 1-3 servings of healthy vegetables in the form of salad (raw) are healthy. Eating raw ensure full benefit of the vegetable as some essential ingredients may be destroyed due to over-cooking or cooking at high temperature for long time.
It is recommended to eat 5 different vegetables and fruits every day.
Timings of eating
Generally fruits are suggested to be eaten in early morning as first thing after water. Leave them alone in the body, do not eat anything for about an hour so that body can extract essential benefits from them.
Many vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables are good to detoxify the body, therefore they are suggested to be eaten in lunch or dinner to remove the toxins accumulated as part of normal body functioning during the day.
Possible side effects
Fruits and vegetables in regular quantity do not cause any harm in majority of people.
Some people who have existing illness such as diabetes patients should eat some fruits and vegetables in modernity as per doctor’s instruction.
Dietary supplements containing antioxidants may be unsafe in people who have some existing illnesses. It is better to consult from the competent doctor. It is always better to use the natural form of fruits and vegetables.
Avoid use with other foods
Generally, fruits and vegetables of the season consumed together do not cause any harm to the body.
Do not overuse dietary supplements