ANTIOXIDANTS-THE WONDER FOOD

The success of modern medicine lies in its constant progress in terms of discoveries and inventions about the working of the great machine called the human body, one of the latest addition in this series is the discovery of wonderful nutrients called ‘antioxidants’.

Antioxidants are also called super nutrients, because of their great health benefits, most commonly known antioxidants are vitamin A, C, and E, and carotenoids ( precursor of vitamin A) minerals; selenium and zinc and plant chemicals or Phytochemicals like lycopene ( abundant in tomato), lutein, etc.

The role of antioxidants in the body comes into play after oxygen finishes its own. Oxygen is supplied to each and every cell of the body by hemoglobin to bring out cellular oxidation, to release energy from the food, during this process body also releases free radicals as one of its byproducts. When the body uses oxygen, it burns germs and toxic substances such as ozone and carbon mono-oxide, and the process free radicals are also produced. These radicals damage the cell membranes, disturb chromosomes and genetic material, and destroy valuable enzymes, causing a chain reaction of damage throughout the body. Thus, we can say that free radicals are responsible for almost 50% of the diseases of the body such as coronary heart disease, lung disease, and certain cancer, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and aging processes. Antioxidants as the name suggest, eat away or scavenge these free radicals and save the body from their harmful effects.

 Rich sources of antioxidants are as follows:-

1.    Beta carotene (precursors to vitamin A)

Good sources of beta-carotene include Dark green and orange-yellow vegetables, such as:-

·       Carrots,

·       Sweet potatoes,

·       Squash,

·       Spinach,

·       Broccoli,

·       Romaine lettuce,

·       Apricots and

·       Green peppers

2.    Vitamin C

Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially Amlas are considered as a storehouse of vitamin C.

3.    Vitamin E

Avocados, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, watercress, blackberries, mangoes, nuts, wholemeal and wholegrain products

4.    Selenium

Rye, whole grain, brown rice, asparagus, spinach, oats and fresh fruits of course, which always contain some of the antioxidants always.

5.    Phytochemicals

·       Flavonoids / polyphenols

·       Soy

·       Red wine

·       Purple grapes

·       Pomegranate

·       Cranberries

·       Tea

·       Lycopene

·       Tomato and tomato products

·       Pink grapefruit

·       Watermelon

·       Lutein

·       Dark green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, Brussels sprout and spinach

·       Lignan

·       Flaxseed

·       Oatmeal

·       Barley

·       Rye

There are two ways in which we can reduce the damage, first is to avoid deliberate exposure for those things which lead to the production of free radical in the body like smoking, pollution, ultraviolet rays from the sun And second is to consume fresh fruits, vegetables, whole cereals and variety of food every day, so that our body may get ample of antioxidants on a regular basis.

It has been noticed that pollution reduces the utilization of antioxidants in the body; this fact explains why there is more risk for the urban population to develop heart diseases, lung diseases, cataracts, and rheumatoid arthritis than the rural population. Not only is this but we self increase the risk of damage done by free radicals by adding oil to our diet. As fats are heated; their chemical structures break down to form peroxide. These peroxides further breakdown to form the dangerous hydroxyl radicals. This form of radicals is highly reactive and cause great damage to the cells and DNA.The benefit of antioxidants is so much for human beings that the more we talk about it the less it is! Medical science has proved it beyond doubt that diet rich in antioxidants, gives us a much better, healthy, and long life compared to the diet deficient in it.