Important to realize, the sources of Antioxidants can be natural or artificial. Whereas, certain plant-based foods are thought to be rich in them. Plant-based antioxidants are a kind of phytonutrient or plant-based nutrient.
The body also produces some antioxidants, known as endogenous antioxidants. Antioxidants that come from outside the body are called exogenous.
Phytonutrients, also called phytochemicals, are chemicals produced by plants. Not forgetting, plants use phytonutrients to stay healthy. For example, some phytonutrients protect plants from insect attacks. While others protect against radiation from UV rays.
In addition, Phytonutrients can also provide significant benefits for humans who eat plant foods. Phytonutrient-rich foods include colorful fruits and vegetables. As well as, legumes, nuts, tea, whole grains, and many spices.
They affect human health but are not considered nutrients that are essential for life. Like carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. And that is why it is important that you understand what Antioxidants are.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants (sometimes called “free-radical scavengers”) are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells. Especially, damages caused by free radicals, and unstable molecules. In that case, some of which our body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures.
And in general, there are thought to be hundreds and possibly thousands of substances that can act as antioxidants. Each has its own role and can interact with others to help the bodywork effectively.
“Antioxidant” is not really the name of a substance, but rather it describes what a range of substances can do.
Examples of antioxidants that come from outside the body include:
Flavonoids, flavones, catechins, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens are all types of antioxidants and phytonutrients. And they are all found in plant-based foods.
Each antioxidant serves a different function and is not interchangeable with another. This is why it is important to have a varied diet.
Free radicals are waste substances produced by cells as the body processes food and reacts to the environment.
Read Also: What are the Forms of UV Radiation?
Factors that increase the production of free radicals in the body can be internal, such as inflammation, or external, for example, pollution, UV exposure, and cigarette smoke.
Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. And this is thought to boost overall health.
Which Food Sources have Antioxidants?
By all means, the best sources of Antioxidants are plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables (such as asparagus).
Therefore, to obtain some specific antioxidants, try to include the following in your diet.
- Like Vitamin A: Dairy produce, eggs, and liver
- Or Vitamin C: Most fruits and vegetables, especially berries, oranges, and bell peppers
- As well as Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds, sunflower and other vegetable oils, and green, leafy vegetables
- Beta-carotene: Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, peas, spinach, and mangoes
- Lycopene: Pink and red fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and watermelon
- Lutein: Green, leafy vegetables, corn, papaya, and oranges
- Selenium: Rice, corn, wheat, and other whole grains, as well as nuts, eggs, cheese, and legumes
Other foods that are good sources of antioxidants include:
- legumes such as black beans or kidney beans
- green and black tea
- red grapes
- dark chocolate
- goji berries
Goji berries and many other food products that contain antioxidants are available to purchase online.
Foods with rich, vibrant colors often contain the most antioxidants.
The following foods are good sources of antioxidants.
Click on each one to find out more about their health benefits and nutritional information:
How are Antioxidants beneficial?
As can be seen, among the many benefits of Phytonutrients are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
Not to mention, Phytonutrients may also enhance immunity and intercellular communication.
While at the same time, repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins, detoxify carcinogens and alter estrogen metabolism.
Many phytonutrients give plants their pigments, so a good way to tell if a fruit or vegetable is rich in phytonutrients can be by its color.
This is according to Louis Premkumar, a professor of pharmacology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. And author of “Fascinating Facts about Phytonutrients in Spices and Healthy Food” (Xlibris, 2014).
As an example, look for deep-hued foods like berries, dark greens, melons, and spices.
For one thing, these foods also are rich in flavor and aroma. Making them more palatable. But, some phytonutrient-rich foods have a little color. Like onions and garlic, and you don’t want to discount them.
Below are more benefits;
Improved Digestive Health
As a matter of fact, dietary fiber is essential for good digestive health. Just half a cup of asparagus contains 1.8 grams of fiber, which is 7% of your daily needs.
Studies suggest that a diet high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Asparagus is particularly high in insoluble fiber. And in that case, which adds bulk to stool. Supporting regular bowel movements.
While on the other hand, it also contains a small amount of soluble fiber. Dissolving water and forming a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. These soluble fibers feed the friendly bacteria in the gut too. Such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.
Therefore, increasing the number of these beneficial bacteria plays a role in strengthening the immune system. And producing essential nutrients like vitamins B12 and K2. So, eating asparagus as part of a fiber-rich diet is an excellent way. To help meet your fiber needs and keep your digestive system healthy.
Protection Against Body Cells Damage
Eating Antioxidants (like asparagus ) can protect against the cell damage that free radicals cause, known as oxidative stress.
Activities and processes that can lead to oxidative stress include:
- mitochondrial activity
- excessive exercise
- tissue trauma, due to inflammation and injury
- ischemia and reperfusion damage
- consumption of certain foods, especially refined and processed foods, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and certain dyes and additives
- environmental pollution
- exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and drugs, including chemotherapy
- industrial solvents
Such activities and exposures can result in cell damage.
This, in turn, may lead to:
- an excessive release of free iron or copper ions
- activation of phagocytes, a type of white blood cell with a role in fighting infection
- an increase in enzymes that generate free radicals
- a disruption of electron transport chains
All of these can result in oxidative stress.
The damage caused by oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, atherosclerosis, and vision loss. It is thought that free radicals cause changes in the cells that lead to these and possibly other conditions.
Intake of antioxidants is believed to reduce these risks.
According to one study: “Antioxidants act as a radical scavenger, hydrogen donor, electron donor, peroxide decomposer, singlet oxygen quencher, an enzyme inhibitor, synergist, and metal-chelating agents.”
Overall, however, there is a lack of evidence that a higher intake of specific antioxidants can reduce the risk of disease. In most cases, results have tended to show no benefit or a detrimental effect, or they have been conflicting.
General Support For Healthy Pregnancy
Another key point, Asparagus is an excellent source of folate (vitamin B9).
Just half a cup of asparagus provides adults with 34% of their daily folate needs and pregnant women with 22% of their daily needs.
Folate is an essential nutrient that helps form red blood cells and produce DNA for healthy growth and development. It’s especially important during the early stages of pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the baby.
Getting enough folate from sources like asparagus, green leafy vegetables and fruit can protect against neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
Neural tube defects can lead to a range of complications, ranging from learning difficulties to lack of bowel and bladder control to physical disabilities.
The following tips could help increase your antioxidant intake:
- Include a fruit or a vegetable every time you eat, meals and snacks included.
- Have a cup of green or matcha tea every day.
- Look at the colors on your plate. If your food is mostly brown or beige, the antioxidant levels are likely to be less. Add in foods with rich colors, such as kale, beets, and berries.
- Use turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, clove, and cinnamon to spice up the flavor and antioxidant content of your meals.
- Snack on nuts, seeds, especially Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit, but choose those with no added sugar or salt.
Or, try these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:
- Cherry-almond smoothie
- Spicy cinnamon-ginger roasted carrots
- Roast beet and red quinoa salad with orange-beet balsamic vinaigrette
- Carrot cake power smoothie
- Chickpea, kale and cashew superfood soup
- Spicy Thai lettuce wraps
- Cure-all juice.
Do Antioxidants have any Risks?
It is worth remembering that, while studies link the consumption of fruits and vegetables with better overall health, it is not clear whether how far this is due to the activity of antioxidants.
In reality, cooking particular foods can either increase or decrease antioxidant levels. Lycopene is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their rich red color.
Studies have shown that cauliflower, peas, and zucchini lose much of their antioxidant activity in the cooking process. Keep in mind that the important thing is eating a variety of antioxidant-rich foods. Whether cooked or raw!
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