If you have ever watched television or opened a magazine in the past year, you will definitely have seen or heard advertisements about products that contain antioxidants. In fact, these substances seem to have applications in all aspects of life, from food preservation to reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease in people.
Basically, antioxidants are substances that slow down the process of oxidation inside the body by deactivating the volatile and very dangerous compounds typically called free radicals.
Free radicals are naturally produced by the body as by-products of ordinary processes within the body. These free radicals do not normally cause any harm because the body's self-protecting mechanisms are able to neutralize these chemicals.
However, due to sickness, alcohol consumption or exposure to UV radiation, the body's defense system will not be able to function perfectly, and the power to fight off these free radicals is greatly reduced.
In such cases, the free radicals are left unrestricted to wreak havoc on the body's internal systems. According to studies in recent years, this lack of control over the free radicals can do a lot of damage, from hastening the aging process to increasing the risk of cancer and coronary heart disease.
If you have adequate antioxidants in your body, these problems can be minimized. Many people choose to take antioxidants in the form of vitamin C or vitamin E supplements, which is quite alright. However, nutrition experts say that natural foods are still the best source of antioxidants.
Citrus fruits, whole grains and many kinds of vegetables are rich in antioxidants, and should be included in a person's daily diet. The benefits of natural antioxidants on the body have been discovered only recently, and scientists are still in the process of learning more about these substances.
There are several natural sources for antioxidants, such as the following:
It has long been established that Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is one of the best vitamins to boost the body's immune system and keep us protected against illness and infections. Vitamin C is also a good antioxidant vitamin. Common sources of Vitamin C are citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, as well as many kinds of vegetables such as leafy greens and potatoes.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which means that it is regularly passed in the body's fluids. This further means that people need to consume sufficient quantities of this vitamin daily.
In recent years, vitamin E has been greatly advertised as an antioxidant that helps to slow down the aging process. While vitamin E supplements have been flying off the shelves due to these advertisements, you don't really have to buy these supplements if you eat a lot of foods that are rich in vitamin E everyday.
Whole grain bread, fish liver oil, leafy greens and nuts are among the most excellent sources of Vitamin E. Unlike ascorbic acid, Vitamin E is fat soluble, which means you don't need to consume too much of this vitamin everyday since it can be stored for a longer time in the body.
Since carotenoids have been discovered some years ago, more than 600 varieties have been discovered, one of which is the popular beta-carotene. This is a brown or orange pigment that protects fruits from the harmful effects of constant exposure to sunlight.
According to many researchers, beta-carotene can provide the same kind of protection for the human body, which is why they advocate the consumption of this substance. Beta-carotene can be commonly found in carrots, tomatoes, kale, squash and most other fruits and vegetables with a distinguishing orange color.
This element is not very well known for being a helpful part of human nutrition. However, in recent years, there has been quite a buzz surrounding this element because of talks that it has the necessary properties to help prevent cancer.
Excessive amounts of selenium in the body can result in disastrous circumstances, which is why many scientists believe it is better to get this substance through food consumption. Luckily, selenium can be found in many common foods like poultry, garlic, whole grains, eggs and vegetables harvested from soil abundant in selenium.