We need to stabilise free radical activity in our bodies before they cause more harm
ANTIOXIDANTS are a classification of organic substances that function by deactivating free radicals or dangerous particles that roam in our cells.
Free radicals are the natural by-products of many metabolic processes within our cells. They are essentially atoms or a group of atoms that have at least one unpaired electron.
This unpaired electron is highly reactive. Free radicals in small doses promote beneficial oxidation that help to destroy bacteria that invade our cells.
But excessive amounts of free radicals — caused by too much exposure to various environmental factors, such as bad air quality, tobacco smoke, radiation — can cause the free radicals to turn against us.
They then become harmful by damaging our healthy cells by producing harmful oxidation processes.
DAMAGE OVER TIME
Over time, excessive free radicals cause damage to healthy cells and genetic material in our body. Researchers believe that in extreme cases and over a long period of time, free radicals can cause irreversible damage to cells and this can lead to diseases such a cancer, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and more.
Exposure to the environment and radiation is something we cannot really prevent totally as it is part and parcel of everyday living. Coupled with an unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, poor nutrition, lack of exercise and other excesses,
it’s no wonder we are falling prey to many diseases.
This is where antioxidants help by stabilising free radical activity before they cause more harm. Foods that are rich in antioxidants are those high in Vitamin A (the precursor is beta carotene), C, E, the mineral selenium and phytochemicals.
Foods that are rich in these nutrients are mainly vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains, such as wholemeal bread, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, just to name a few.
Phytochemicals are substances that give different fruit and vegetables their unique colour and researchers are finding out many potent antioxidant activity that these phytochemicals are capable of.
It is important to eat foods rich in antioxidants every day. The problem is, due our hectic lifestyle, we often make do with quick meals that lack vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and legumes.
You may notice your local pharmacy stocks shelves of antioxidant supplements, usually in high doses too. Can these antioxidant pills actually replace eating a well balanced diet?
Researchers are not too convinced if these supplements bring about the results they promise for our long term well-being. As they try to fully understand how antioxidants actually work in deactivating free radicals, they still recommend that the best way to get your antioxidant nutrients is from natural whole foods, which contain other components of nutrition.