All About Antioxidants

Plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain many components that are beneficial to human health. Research supports that some of these foods, as part of an overall healthful diet, have the potential to delay the onset of many age-related diseases. These observations have led to continuing research aimed at identifying specific bioactive components in foods, such as antioxidants, which may be responsible for improving and maintaining health.

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage to the cells which over time can lead to mutations such as cancer. Antioxidants act as"free radical scavengers" and hence prevent and repair the damage done by these free radicals. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, vitamin E, and vitamin A, and other substances.

Antioxidants can be either direct or indirect in their effects on free radicals.

  • Direct antioxidants like vitamins E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, neutralize only one free radical molecule at a time on their own and are consumed in the process. While direct antioxidants are valuable, researchers say, they are inferior in that each one is deactivated after it takes out one free radical.
  • Indirect antioxidants are prevalent in cruciferous vegetables, brightly coloured berries, certain spices and herbs (sulforaphane from broccoli, curcumin from turmeric, or anthocyanins from berries). They jump-start the body to make its own antioxidants, mounting a powerful defence against oxidative stress for several days. The indirect antioxidant effects are long-lasting, triggering an ongoing process that may last for days.

New research is showing that all antioxidants - whether "direct" or "indirect" - seem to work better together. For example, when vitamin E and C are combined in the lab, their antioxidant activity more than triples. Meanwhile, several new studies suggest that taking too much of a single antioxidant like C or E can backfire and promote more free radical production.

What are the benefits of Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are the naturally occurring nutrients found in certain fruits and vegetables. They've been proven to protect human cells from oxidative damage and provide:

  • Stronger immune resistance to flu, viruses and infections.
  • The greatly reduced incidence of all cancers.
  • Prevention of glaucoma and macular degeneration.
  • Reduced risk of cholesterol-oxidation and heart disease.
  • Anti-ageing of cells and overall body.