Beyond the Hype: Antioxidants & Health

Many food and supplement manufacturers today promote their products by emphasizing the effects of antioxidants on your health. To attract more consumers, these manufacturing companies will often make claims about their antioxidant-rich products by stating that these products can make you look younger, triple your energy or even reverse the signs of aging. Because of this increasing hype about antioxidants, the Food and Drug Administration has prohibited these companies from making claims about their products’ ability to reduce disease.

Despite this prohibition, countless consumers still spend billions of dollars each year for pills that contain antioxidants (and this number is only for antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and beta carotene). So what exactly is the truth behind the hype about health and antioxidants?

Antioxidants vs. Free Radicals

Antioxidants are substances that fight the process of oxidation, which is a normal process that occurs in the human body. Antioxidants are composed of enzymes and nutrients. These proteins, vitamins and minerals are believed to help prevent numerous diseases that include cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and arthritis.

Oxidation is caused by the presence of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are the same elements that cause iron to rust, silver to tarnish, and apple flesh to turn brown after it’s been peeled. In the human body, free radicals wreak havoc in your DNA and cells. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent the presence of free radicals in the body. They are caused by both internal factors (inflammation, metabolism) and external factors (pollution, alcohol, smoking).

Antioxidants battle free radicals in two ways–first, by preventing chains of free radicals from forming, and secondly by destroying chains that have already been formed.

Introducing Antioxidants to Your Diet

Beans: The best way to get antioxidants into your body is through the foods you eat, such as beans. Whether you choose kidney beans, red beans, pinto beans or black beans, make sure that you incorporate plenty of beans into your diet. Not only are beans loaded with antioxidants, but they are also filling and affordable. They also contain other nutrients and no cholesterol at all.

Fruits: Fruits are also great sources of antioxidants. Instead of snacking on junk foods, load up on fruits like apples, pineapples, oranges, avocados, plums, cherries and pears. Almost all types of berries are also good sources of antioxidants.

Nuts: The antioxidant vitamin E can also be found in nuts. Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are examples of healthy choices that you can eat.

Carrots and Tomatoes: Beta carotene is mostly found in carrots. Beta carotene is an antioxidant known for providing protection against heart disease and cancer. A more powerful antioxidant than beta carotene is lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes.

Garlic: If you usually use garlic to add spice or flavor to your dishes then you are also consuming another food that is rich in antioxidants. Garlic has vitamins A, E and selenium and is known for its healing properties.

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