Food Antioxidants, its health significance
Antioxidants are considered as the God given gift of nature in preventing the onset of various health disorders like cancer, coronary heart diseases and so on. Thus including a healthy diet in the daily routine will definitely serve as a protector against various health risks.
Antioxidants present in foods are excellent scavengers of free radicals that are formed in the body. Free radicals appear in the body as a result of oxidation. In simple terms, oxidation can be defined as the process which yields in the generation of unstable forms of oxygen that has the capacity of ruining the entire cell itself. If this is the case, then just imagine the condition of the whole body in the long run. For instance, I can explain the process of oxidation with respect to the foods we eat, such as, browning reactions that occur in a cut apple, banana and so on.
What are free radicals and how are they formed?
As a result of various metabolic reactions that take place in the body, oxygen molecules are generated, which when formed in excess, results in the generation of free radicals. These free radicals are also formed as a result of getting attacked by pollution or smoking. Thus people who spend most of their time in the outside polluted environment and those who smoke and consume foods adulterated by pesticides, have higher levels of free radicals than others. The ultra violet radiation may also act as a source of free radicals.
Role of free radicals in the development of health complications:
The free radicals are highly reactive and undergo mutation with the DNA of the cells and damages the cell membranes with which it comes in contact. Thus the total cell is damaged. If when the process continues at an alarming rate, then it results in the following chronic diseases of the body:
- Infertility and birth defects
- Gastro intestinal tract damages
- Reduced resistance to infection
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Liver damage
- Increased blood pressure
It is difficult to reverse the effects of free radicals.
What are food antioxidants and from where do we get it?
Nutrients such as Beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Selenium are considered as the most potent antioxidants. All of these nutrients are found enriched in colorful fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is the precursor of Vitamin A and is also a potent antioxidant. The health significance of these nutrients is very well known. Vitamin C is the most commonly found antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C plays a dual role with respect to antioxidant function in the body. It not scavenges the free radicals from the body but also aids in returning Vitamin E to its active form. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and protects polyunsaturated fatty acids and other fat soluble compounds. Vitamin E mainly protects the lipid membranes of the body. Apart from these vitamins, a mineral namely selenium, is also considered as an important antioxidant.
Phytochemicals in foods:
Apart from the nutrients, some of the non-nutrient components present in the foods also function as antioxidants. Some of the phytochemicals that serve as antioxidants include limonene, phenols, isoflavones, flavanoids, phytic acid, lignans and so on. Lets us see the food sources and actions of each and every phytochemicals within our body.
Limonene is commonly found citrus fruits such as lemon, oranges and so on. It triggers the enzyme production and facilitates the excretion of carcinogen. Phenols are also found in citrus fruits and inhibit lipid oxidation, block the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the body.
Antioxidants and flavonoids are also good for reducing the process of aging. Just apply any of the antioxidant rich foods such as tomatoes, papaya, carrot, ripe mango pulp on face. Leave on for twenty minutes and wash with water. You will find a natural glow on your face. Regular use of this pack or consumption of these fruits itself will make your skin glowing It is a cost effective method of enhancing your hidden beauty.
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