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What Are Antioxidants? The Benefits of These Free Radical Fighters


By , Managing Editor
Monday, July 23, 2012
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As of late, antioxidants have ruled the health world as the popular kid. We like saying the snack we're having or the skin cream we use is packed with them. But what are they?

Think of antioxidants as a home security system for your body. They prevent the bad guys from getting in and when they do, antioxidants alert the good guys to help take care of it. With new research linking the positive effects of antioxidants with preventing diseases like Parkinson's and pancreatic cancer, there's never been a better time to learn more about them. 

What They Do
An antioxidant is not a specific compound or physical object, rather, many different things fall into the antioxidant category. Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are all considered antioxidants because of their actions in the body. An antioxidant defends the cells of the body against free radicals, which are molecules produced from toxins in the environment or by the breakdown and digestion of certain foods. Left to run a muck inside you, free radicals can damage the cells, causing them to age and leading to diseases like heart disease and cancer. Too many free radicals also means an impaired immune system, making you even more susceptible to bacteria and viral infections. 

Where to Get Antioxidants
Antioxidants can be found in all sorts of foods we encounter daily. The benefit of getting your antioxidants through food sources is the mixture of antioxidants you get in each food. These antioxidants are also better absorbed and utilized by the body. Want to start an antioxidant-rich diet? Here are some of the best foods and drinks to shop for, recommended by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Drinks -- Green tea, red wine, pomegranate juice and coffee
  • Vegetables -- Spinach, pumpkin, kale, broccoli, potatoes (red, white and sweet, not peeled), red cabbage and artichokes
  • Fruits -- Tomatoes, apples (keep the peel), avocados, cherries, pears, plums, kiwi and pineapple as well as berries like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and cranberries
  • Beans -- Red, black, kidney and pinto 
  • Grains -- Oat-based products
  • Nuts -- Walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and almonds
  • Herbs -- Cloves, ginger, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric

For an added bonus, enjoy dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth. There are also certain supplements you can take to get an individual antioxidant's benefits. Some of the most popular and beneficial supplemental antioxidants include resveratrol, selenium, vitamins C and E, beta carotene, manganese and alpha lipoic acid (ALA)

The Latest Research
As mentioned before, having sufficient antioxidants can help reduce your risk for developing cancer, heart disease or macular degeneration. These two studies, both released this month, reflect the continuing research surrounding antioxidants and disease prevention:

  • Parkinson's disease:
    In an animal study conducted by Dr. Bobby Thomas, a neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia and published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, a medication called synthetic triterpenoids prevented development of the disease. The drug helped to reinforce the antioxidant Nrf2 that helps to prevent inflammation and therefore oxidative stress and brain cell death associated with this disease. 
  • Pancreatic cancer:
    Published in the July issue the medical journal Gut, this study found found individuals who consumed a diet rich in selenium were half as likely to develop pancreatic cancer and those who consumed a high amount of selenium as well as vitamins C and E were 67 percent less likely to develop the cancer. The study was conducted for almost 20 years, beginning in 1993, following the diets of 23,500 people who kept journals of their consumption.

No matter how you get them  -- food, drinks or supplements -- you should look for ways to add antioxidants to your diet. They're your body's first line of defense against disease, and with all that's out there today, we need all the help we can get.

 


Products you may like:

eVitamins Natural Resveratrol 200 mg  eVitamins Natural Resveratrol 200 mg 
Why you may like this product? Our resveratrol is produced from plant and red wine extracts that provides 200 mg of this powerful antioxidant per serving. Resveratrol maintains a healthy inflammatory response in the body and has anti-aging properties.
Garden of Life Perfect Food Berry Berry Garden of Life Perfect Food Berry Berry
Why you may like this product? This mix from Garden of Life helps you get all the antioxidant benefits of fruits a greens you need daily in one glass. You get barley grass, alfalfa, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry -- all rich in antioxidants to protect the body -- and so much more in each 25-calorie serving.
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