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.
Not forgetting, 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, they 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 in this review guide.
As an example, some of these foods are also rich in antioxidants: Including but not limited to prunes, apples, raisins, plums, red grapes, alfalfa sprouts, onions, eggplant, beans, and much more… And now, let’s learn more in detail, shall we?
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. Do your immune system a favor and pack more fruits and vegetables on your plate.
They’re loaded with nutrients, called antioxidants, that are good for you. And as the saying goes: ”An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The same goes for, particularly, some natural sources of antioxidants in foodstuffs. Add more fruits and vegetables of any kind to your diet — it’ll help your health. Some foods are higher in antioxidants than others, though.
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Generally, 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. There are antioxidants that come from outside the body.
Some examples include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. As well as selenium, manganese, zeaxanthin, etc. As you can see, three of the major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues.
Some of the main examples to consider are as follows:
We can begin with Beta-Carotene and other Carotenoids: They include apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip, collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Vitamin C: berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, tomatoes, and red, green, or yellow peppers.
Vitamin E: broccoli (boiled), avocado, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach (boiled), and sunflower seeds.
Other antioxidants that can help keep you healthy include:
Zinc: oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, some fortified cereals (check the ingredients to see if zinc has been added), and dairy products.
Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry, fortified bread, and other grain products.
Equally important, 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 in real essence. More so, as the body processes food and reacts to the environment. If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative chronic stress can result. This can harm cells and body functions.
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In general terms, free radicals are also known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) for your information. And there are factors that increase their production. Some free radicals contributing factors in the body can be internal, such as inflammation, or external, for example, pollution, UV exposure, and cigarette smoke.
Oxidative stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory diseases, immune deficiency, emphysema, Parkinson’s disease, and other inflammatory or ischemic conditions. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. And this is thought to boost overall health.
Which Food Sources Have Antioxidants In Them?
By all means, the best sources of Antioxidants are plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables (such as asparagus). Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants are often referred to as “superfoods” or “functional food” for that matter. Therefore, to obtain some specific antioxidants, try to include a variety of the following elements in your dietary plan.
- Vitamin A: Dairy produce, eggs, and liver
- Vitamin C: Most fruits and vegetables, especially berries, oranges, and bell peppers
- Beta-carotene: Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, peas, spinach, and mangoes
- Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds, sunflower and other vegetable oils, and green, leafy vegetables
- 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
There are also some other foods that are good sources of antioxidants you should know about.
- legumes such as black beans or kidney beans
- green and black tea
- eggplants and red grapes
- dark chocolate and pomegranates
- goji berries, and much more…
Goji berries and many other food products that contain antioxidants are available to purchase online. The following foods are also yet another good source of antioxidants. That said, you can click on each one to find out more about their general health benefits as well as their nutritional value information in detail.
Foods with rich, vibrant colors often contain the most antioxidants.
How Are Antioxidants Beneficial To Our Body?
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, they also repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins, detoxify carcinogens, and alter estrogen metabolism.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that consuming a phytonutrient-rich diet seems to be an “effective strategy.” Particularly, for reducing cancer and heart disease risks. 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.
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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.
One thing is for sure, 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. With that in mind, below are more additional benefits related to Antioxidants that you should know about as we’ll elaborate further in detail.
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. In reality, there are a variety of activities and processes that can lead to oxidative stress you need to know.
They include the following:
- mitochondrial activity and 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,
- cigarette smoking, environmental pollution, as well as radiation
- exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and drugs, including chemotherapy
- industrial solvents, ozone, and much more…
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’s 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 radical scavengers, hydrogen donors, electron donors, peroxide decomposers, singlet oxygen quenchers, enzyme inhibitors, synergists, and metal-chelating agents. Other research has indicated that antioxidant supplements may help reduce vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration in older people.
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 is, 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.
By the same token, Folate is yet another 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 asparagus, leafy green vegetables, and fruit can protect against neural tube defects.
Including neural defects such as spina bifida. Whilst, bearing in mind, neural tube defects can also 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 (Brazil nuts) and seeds (sunflower), or dried fruit, but choose those with no added sugar or salt.
Likewise, you can also try some other healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians.
Including but not limited to:
- 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
The next thing is to learn whether taking antioxidants has any related risks to the consumers.
Do Antioxidants Have Any Associated Risks?
It is worth remembering that, while studies link the consumption of fruits and vegetables with better overall health, it is not clear how far this is due to the activity of antioxidants. Diseases linked to Free radicals include heart disease, cancer, and vision loss. But this does not mean that an increased intake of antioxidants will prevent these diseases.
Antioxidants from artificial sources may increase the risk of some health problems. As a result, it is important to seek out natural sources of antioxidants, in the form of a healthful diet. Consuming fruits and vegetables have been linked to a lower rate of chronic diseases, and antioxidants may play a role.
However, it is unlikely that consuming added antioxidants, especially processed foods, will provide significant benefits. In addition, anyone considering taking antioxidant supplements should speak to a health provider first. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warn that high doses of antioxidant supplements can be harmful.
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A high intake of beta-carotene, for example, has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. A high dose of vitamin E has been found to increase the risk of prostate cancer, and the use of some antioxidant supplements has been linked to a greater risk of tumor growth as well.
Additionally, some antioxidant supplements may also interact with some medications. It is important to speak with a health provider before using any of these products. Overall, research has not proven that taking any particular antioxidant as a supplement or through food can protect against disease.
There may be some benefits for people at risk of age-related macular degeneration, but it is essential to seek advice from a doctor about whether to use supplements and which ones to use.
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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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