Monday, July 9, 2012


Antioxidants are vital for good health. Today's health and beauty buzz is on antioxidants obtained from food and supplements as well as topical antioxidants.

What are antioxidants? Antioxidants are molecules that protect our cells from damage by free radicals and prevent them from harming healthy tissue. Anti oxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes.

What are free radicals? Free radicals are organic molecules responsible for ageing, damage to tissue and some diseases. These molecules are unstable and so look to bond with other molecules, destroy their health and continue the damaging process. This is called "oxidative stress" and occurs when it is beyond the protective  capabilities of the antioxidants. Radicals also play a part in the role of white blood cells that destroy bacteria and pathogens in the body.

Antioxidant molecules are found in fresh foods and act as a protectorant by preventing the free radicals from causing excessive damage.
The best way to obtain antioxidants is from a balanced diet because the body can easily absorb them.

The 3 major antioxidant vitamins are:
  1. Beta carotene
  2. Vitamin C
  3. Vitamin E
Foods that are rich in antioxidants:

There are thousands of foods that are rich in antioxidants. The USDA created a scale called ORAC to measure antioxidant content of plant food. This is what they came up with:
Fruits: The top antioxidant fruits are:
Blueberries, cranberries, prunes, raisins, blackberries and strawberries.
Vegetables:Highest content in vegetables are:
Broccoli, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts and beets. Potatoes and artichokes are also a good source.
Beans: Red beans recently took the lead against blueberries.
Red beans, black beans and pinto beans. Small red beans and black beans should be dried to maintain antioxidant content.
Spices: Many spices are rich in antioxidants although not the first choice of many.
Ground cloves, cinnamon, oregano and turmeric are powerful antioxidants.

Most popular food sources:

Green vegetables:- These contain lutien, carotenoids and zeaxanthin (protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.)
                                             Found in:
Spinach, collard greens and kale.
Cruciferous vegetables: contain antioxidants and nutrients that fight cancer.
Found in:
Brocolli, brussel sprouts, turnips, cabbage and cauliflower.
Orange/Yellow fruits and vegetables: Rich in carotenoids to protect the immune system.
Found in:
Sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes and apricots.
Red pigmented fruits: contain lycopene- a powerful antioxidant that helps fight cancer and heart disease.
Found in:
                                            Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and papaya.
Blue/Purple fruits and vegetables: contain phytochemicals that protect against carcinogens and heart disease. 
Found in:
Blueberries, purple grapes, red cabbage, beets and plums.
Other important antioxidants:
Found in:
Dark chocolate, red wine, green and white tea.

Antioxidants are said to play a role in the prevention of:
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Alzheimer's
  • Cataracts
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
Damage from free radicals is impossible to avoid and the source of free radicals arise from inside the body as well as outside. The oxidants that develop inside the body are a result of normal aerobic respiration, metabolism and inflammation. 
The external sources are from the environment such as sunlight, pollution, X-rays, smoking and alcohol as well as poisons in cleaners and herbicides.

Supplementation of antioxidants
More than half the adults in the US are vitamin pill poppers. Vitamins should not be used to make up for an inadequate diet as they cannot replace proper nutrition.
Antioxidants are widely used and are the subject of extensive research. They should be used as an insurance policy if you don't get enough of a certain type. I have spoken to physicians who are huge advocates of supplements and some that have told me that they are a total waste of money and can often do more harm than good.
Consult with your own doctor.

Topical antioxidants:
Topical antioxidants are used to protect the skin against damage from the environment, inflammation and the ageing process. Free radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles, loss of tone, pigmentation and skin cancer. Topical formulations contain many different antioxidants. Their effect depends on how well they penetrate the skin. Many studies have revealed that antioxidants can be absorbed into the top most layer of skin where they neutralize free radicals.
Antioxidants should not be exposed to light. They should be packaged in dark bottles or preferably metal tubes to prevent the breakdown of active ingredients.
Antioxidants should be applied first to the skin before anything else.
Vitamin C- stimulates collagen formation.
Vitamin E- provides essential hydration to restore the skin barrier.
Idebenone, coffeeberry and phloretin and some of the most potent antioxidants to fight free radical damage.
Consult with your skin care professional on choosing the correct products and how they should be used to obtain optimum results.

Stay healthy, happy and safe.

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