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