The Power of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds in foods that can stop free radicals from doing harm in the body. Because they may also boost the immune system, they are a big help in lowering the risk of cancer and infection.

Free radicals, on the other hand, are the unstable oxygen molecules that have lost an electron through exposure to sunlight, pollution, and daily wear and tear. They are free-moving molecules that travel around the body trying to stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from healthy molecules. More free radicals are created after a successful steal, damaging healthy cells in the process.
Scientists believe that these free radicals are the primary cause behind heart disease, cancer, aging, loss of vision due to cataract, and other diseases. Free radicals cause cholesterol to stick to the artery walls, leading to the hardening of the arteries and damaging the DNA inside the cells. This results to cell mutation that, in turn, leads to cancer.

Unless something stops these free radicals from causing damage to the healthy cells, diseases continue to progress. This is where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants are abundant in fruits and vegetables. When fruits and vegetables are eaten, these protective compounds enter the bloodstream, stepping between the healthy molecules and free radicals. Antioxidants then offer their own electrons thus neutralizing the free radicals and freeing the healthy cells from being damaged by the free radicals.

Although the body produces antioxidants, they are not enough to neutralize the free radicals, especially if the body is exposed to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other pollutants that enter the body through food intake, stress, and strenuous exercises. Thus, the body’s immune system is overpowered and needing help.

Antioxidants are not stored in the body, so they need to be replaced daily. Because antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables, the latter should be eaten three times a day to protect the healthy cells from the damage caused by the free radicals. Dr. Alfred Ordman, a professor of biochemistry at Beloit College in Wisconsin, USA, said, “There is no doubt that antioxidants play a crucial role in reducing the risk for all kinds of diseases.”
Scientific studies have focused on three antioxidant compounds – Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene. More vitamin C in the diet protects the heart, arteries, lungs, and eyes against damage brought about by free radicals. Vitamin E, on the other hand, helps avert the arteries from clogging by stopping the conversion of cholesterol into wax fat deposits that stick to blood vessel walls.

Using vitamin E supplements also prevent heart disease and other types of cardiovascular diseases. Beta-carotene has the ability to prevent chronic diseased. Doctors suggest that at least six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables be eaten daily and regularly.