We are always being warned we should eat more fruit, vegetables, nuts, and berries. The government and the media are always lecturing us to eat 19 (or whatever the latest number is) portions of fruit a day. It would be a full time occupation just to keep up with all the fruit eating we are supposed to be doing. However, we do need to consume enough antioxidants in order to minimise the damage caused by free radicals. This article discusses the benefits of antioxidants, and where we can find them.
Oxidants, which are sometimes described as free radicals, are damaging to the body. They are thought to speed up the aging process and make the body vulnerable to disease. Antioxidants, as the name suggests, counter act the free radicals, preventing them from oxidising. Antioxidants are also sometimes referred to as ‘free radical scavengers’.
A good non medical example of oxidation is the process of rusting. Rusting is caused by water penetrating the tiny cracks on the surface of metal. The oxygen molecules present in water combine with the metal molecules to form the oxide. This process causes the metal to weaken, and appear brown and fragile – what we refer to as rust.
Obviously the human cells will not rust, but this is an example of the destructive nature of the oxidation process, that free radicals seek to undertake, and why we must do all we can to prevent it from happening.
Antioxidants prevent the free radicals from oxidising by joining up with them, which lowers the risk they pose to the human body. They can also help to repair damaged cells, so it is pretty obvious what the benefits of antioxidants are.
Antioxidants are found in foods, particularly those containing high quantities of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene. Sources of vitamin A include oily fish, liver and eggs. Good Vitamin C sources are oranges, kiwis, peppers and broccoli. Vitamin E is found in olive oil, nuts and seeds, and soya. Beta-carotene is actually what gives certain fruit and vegetables the yellow and orange colors, so vegetables such as carrots and fruits such as mangos are good sources of beta-carotene. It is also thought to be better to eat the fruit and vegetables raw to get the maximum antioxidant benefit.
As previously mentioned, a lot of us find it difficult to consume enough portions of fruit in a day to get enough nutrients. Vitamin C is water soluble, which basically means we need to consume some every day, as it can’t be stored in the body. An alternative means of getting enough antioxidants is to take a supplement, which can provide your antioxidant requirement in the form of a couple of pills. Although these supplements seem expensive, think what you would have to pay for the equivalent portion of fruit and vegetables. I’m sure you are aware by now of the benefits of antioxidants, so if your diet does not contain enough antioxidants, you should probably look towards taking a supplement.
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