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Antioxidants and Cancer

By Chris Chenoweth

Our body’s cells are constantly in competition with substances called free radicals. Free radicals can cause untold damage to your body, harming just about everything inside your body. Some free radicals are made inside the body, while others are caused by the food we ingest and the air we breathe.

To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of antioxidants. Antioxidants are elements that scavenge free radicals and terminate the damage they cause to the body’s cells. They also turn the free radicals into waste by-products, resulting in their elimination from the body.

Because antioxidants prevent cellular damage, considered to be the conduit for cancer, aging, and other diseases and conditions, they are vital to our body’s good health. Antioxidants also have the amazing ability to repair previous damage to cells.

We extract antioxidants from food. Fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods deliver hundreds of antioxidants to our bodies. The most common vitamin antioxidants come from vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Since the body cannot manufacture these vitamins, they must be supplied from our diet and/or supplements.

*BETA-CAROTENE is a precursor to vitamin A (the body turns precursors into vitamin A). Because the body converts the beta-carotene into vitamin A, there is no set requirement of its dosage. Beta-carotene is found in many foods that are orange in color such as carrots, cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, mangos, and sweet potatoes. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, liver, spinach, tomatoes, and whole grains are also rich in beta-carotene.
(Vitamin A has no antioxidant properties and can be toxic if taken in excessive doses.)

*VITAMIN C is a very powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system and neutralizes free radicals, reducing the risk for several types of cancer. It helps make the collagen needed for healthy bones and blood vessels, and it controls infections. The best food sources for vitamin C are citrus fruits or juices, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamin C. The recommended daily allowance is 60-100 mg per day. It is not recommended to take more than 2000 mg per day.

*VITAMIN E, another powerful antioxidant, protects your cells against the effects of free radicals that can damage cells and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vitamin E has also been shown to play a role in immune function and DNA repair. Good sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and fortified cereals. The recommended daily allowance is between 12 and 15 IU per day.

If your body suffers from a shortage of antioxidants, it greatly increases your risk of developing a number of diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. All of these diseases are linked to the foods we consume.

As research into the role of antioxidants continues, the message is clear. Antioxidants acquired from food sources, primarily fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can reduce your risk of many diseases and conditions and provide wonderful benefits to your body’s health.

Chris Chenoweth, author of the DO-IT-YOURSELF HOME, HEALTH & MONEY GUIDE, writes articles pertaining to diet, exercise, health, and business.

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