The antioxidant activity of herbal plants has long been known to produce extraordinary results. Many industries are now pushing products marketed for their antioxidant abilities, but what exactly is an antioxidant, do they really work, and what is the best source? Find out the answers to these questions and more.
What is an Antioxidant?
Antioxidants are molecules that help to slow down or prevent oxidation in other molecules. Oxidation reactions can create free radicals which can, over time, damage cells. Antioxidants stop free radicals and other oxidation reactions by becoming oxidized themselves.
What are the Health Benefits?
Antioxidants have been said to both help and harm your health. Most people would agree that eating your fruits and vegetables daily can help contribute to your health, and they are the largest natural carrier of antioxidants.
However, just because antioxidants can be helpful you your body, this does not mean that we should consume as much of them as possible. Many scientists and medical professionals debate as to whether antioxidants should be taken as supplements at all. One thing is for certain – more is not better, as antioxidants can be potentially toxic as well as interact with medications.
There is plenty of research that points to antioxidants helping over the long run to slow the progression of:
- heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
It has also been proven that diets rich in antioxidant-saturated fruits and vegetables produce the same effects. Scientist remain certain that there are potential benefits of antioxidants, but are still trying to figure out how the different antioxidant systems work together to protect us from free-radical damage.
What are Some Common Herbal Antioxidants?
Below are some common herbal antioxidants found in numerous products on the market today. Used in beverages, food, and cosmetics, herbal antioxidants have quickly become very popular among consumers for their strong rejuvenating abilities:
- Green Tea Extract is one of the most common herbal antioxidants, it has been beneficial in weight loss and to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It has also been shown to stimulate the immune system and help in the fight against numerous diseases.
- Noni is extracted from a Southeast Asian fruit of the same name. Noni has been a popular juice supplement drink for many years noted for its antioxidant qualities and has been shown to lower blood pressure and fight cancer.
- Resveratrol is a popular antioxidant supplement extracted from Japanese knotweed. It has been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-cholesterol benefits.
Common Essential Dietary Antioxidants
Listed below are the four most common antioxidants, as well as some food that they are found in. Though you may wish to take a supplement to ensure you are getting your daily supply of antioxidants, eating a well-balanced diet that includes these foods can be just as effective.
Vitamin E is the most widely available isomer, alpha-tocopherol, has the highest biopotency and helps most to safeguard cell membranes from damage from free radicals. It is found in:
- vegetable oils
- leafy green vegetables
- wheat germ
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it scavenges free radicals in aqueous environments, like inside your cells. It is found in:
- citrus fruits
- leafy green vegetables
Selenium is a trace element needed only in small quantities, but it is necessary for survival. It is found in:
- brown rice
- whole wheat bread
- Brazil nuts
Beta Carotene is a water-soluble vitamin, and it is thought to be one of the best vitamins at scavenging free radicals in low oxygen concentration. It is found in:
- sweet potatoes
As the herbal antioxidant market continues to grow, expect to see these ingredients marketed in more food and beverage products. Consumers worldwide perceive antioxidants as the key to age resistance and long health and wellness, and they will continue to flood the marketplace further.