HEALTH IS WEALTH: ANTIOXIDANTS
Antioxidants have the distinction of possibly being the most powerful nutritional supplements available to us while also being the most heavily marketed. It is impossible to walk down a grocery store aisle without seeing claims of the powers of antioxidants on products from juice and tea to candy bars and breakfast cereal. But do you really know what an antioxidant is and what it does? Are manufactured food products touting the power of antioxidants really healthy or is this merely marketing?
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that pair their own electrons with “free radicals,” the rogue electrons that can damage cellular structures, neutralizing them. Oxidation in your body is similar to other types of oxidation. Oil becomes rancid and Iron rusts due to this process of nature. For a quick hands-on example of oxidation and the effects of antioxidants, try the following: Cut an apple into quarters. Squeeze lemon juice over two of the 4 pieces. Wait 5 minutes. You will notice, as you probably have before, that the cut apple begins to turn brown as oxidation occurs. The apple covered with lemon juice, however, does not turn brown nearly as quickly. This is how antioxidants work in the body.
Antioxidants for Prevention
Antioxidants are considered possible preventative agents for aging, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular health, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that antioxidant intake is associated with increased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and lowered blood pressure. These are critical components to cardiovascular health and metabolic syndrome. One study from the University of Florida found that supplementation with antioxidants effectively reduces vascular damage caused by obesity and diabetes. Another study, from Oxford University, showed that cognitive function is higher for individuals who consume increased levels of antioxidants.
Are All Sources Equal?
Due to the many studies confirming the benefits of antioxidants, many producers of “food products” have begun to make claims of health and longevity that could be attributed to their products. Not all of these products are as beneficial as they claim. Nutritional supplements containing antioxidants are a fantastic way to consume increased levels of antioxidants. Drinking a soda or eating a pastry that claims to have antioxidant power is generally not an effective way to receive the health benefits of antioxidants. The very best way to receive these benefits is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
These are the best foods to eat and the antioxidant they contain:
Carrots and green leafy vegetables: carotenoids
Apples, citrus fruit, and tea: flavonoids
Vegetable oil, nuts and avocados: tocopherols
Red wine and red grapes: resveratrol
Dark chocolate: epicatechin
Green tea, cinnamon, and turmeric: catechins
Radishes and mustard: isothiocyanates
Citrus and strawberries: Vitamin C
Broccoli and Bruseels sprouts: indoles
by Nobel Laureate in Medicine Dr. Louis Ignarro and Naturopathic Physician Dr. Andrew Myers