Anti-Oxidizing Your Body
These days we hear a lot about antioxidants. We're now familiar with such terms as CoQ10 and lycopene - words and phrases we never would have known about ten years ago. Antioxidants can make a profound difference to your health, the way you feel and even the way you look. They protect the cells in your body against damage caused by free radicals - another term we just learned about in the past decade. Free radicals are produced in your body when it breaks down food or when you're exposed to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke and radiation. They have a big part to play in illnesses like heart disease, cancer and even infertility because they damage cells.
Top 7 Antioxidants
Antioxidants are nutrients that combat free radicals, and can be found in foods we eat. Antioxidant nutrients include:
· Vitamin A
· Vitamin C
· Vitamin E
You can find these little treasures in fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains and in some meats, fish and poultry.
What Antioxidants Do
Antioxidants slow down, and in some cases prevent oxidative damage to our bodies. Free radicals are released into the body after oxygen has been used by the cells. Antioxidants act as "free radical scavengers" seeking and destroying free radicals where they find them, repairing and preventing damage. They enhance the immune defense system lowering the risk of some of the diseases associated with free radical damage, like macular degeneration, diabetes and heart disease. They're also great for keeping the body younger and are part of many beauty systems designed to address wrinkles.
Know Your Enemy
To understand the work of antioxidants, it is important to know a bit about what oxidants are and how they affect the body. Our bodies are constantly busy with millions of processes occurring all of the time. The processes require oxygen, that life giving substance each of us needs to survive. The downside of this precious commodity is that it has the ability to create harmful side effects, oxidant substances that lead to cell damage. These oxidants are commonly referred to as "free radicals" and are made available in our bodies by oxygen as well as some external sources, like sunshine and air pollution. Stress, alcohol, unhealthy foods and cigarette smoke are all contributors as well.
Are You a Rust Bucket?
If you think about oxidant damage to inanimate objects, like metal, you will realize that it shows up as rust. In much the same way that oxidation creates rust, causing a breakdown of the surface of metal, oxidation in the body breaks down cells by attacking healthy cells, often DNA, proteins and fats. The domino effect of this chain of events leads to weakened immunological functions and it speeds the aging process.
Warriors Inside Our Bodies
The job of antioxidants is to reduce the effect of free radicals by binding with them to lessen or eliminate their destructive abilities. They can also do repair work on damaged cells. Some antioxidant substances are produced in the body, as enzymes. Superoxide Dismutase, Catalase, and Gluthathione all work together to rid the body of free radicals. Superoxide Dismutase alters the structure of oxidants and breaks them down into hydrogen peroxide. Catalase breaks the peroxide down into water and oxygen particles and Gluthathione, a detoxifying agent, binds with the toxins to drive them out as waste.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Externally, antioxidants are available in foods that are best eaten raw. Leafy greens and foods high in vitamins A, C and E and beta-carotene are the best bet. Oranges, red peppers, tomatoes, spinach and carrots are all great sources of antioxidants. Dark berries, like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are tasty sources of antioxidants. If you can't get them through the foods you eat, then there are also dietary supplements available.