Why Are Antioxidants So Important?
An antioxidant is the frequently used buzzword to describe most health food and diet supplement advertisements these days. What are these antioxidants and what is its role in our body health? The typical high school chemistry definition of antioxidant suggests that it is the molecule which inhibits oxidation. In the present context, antioxidants may be defined as substances, man -made or natural, which prevent potential damage of body cells from unstable molecules or free radicals.
Whenever a molecule loses an electron from its shells, it is said to be in an “oxidation state.” We all know that losing an electron makes the molecule unstable or “free radical” which is highly reactive in nature. It has the tendency to combine (or “attack”) with other atom or molecule in its surrounding. This unstable and highly reactive behavior of free radicals can often lead to a chain reaction which can damage healthy cells. As a byproduct of various metabolic processes that are carried inside our body, free radicals are regularly produced. Besides, being by-products of natural digestive processes, the production of free radicals is also attributed to medicines as well as pollutants that we ingest.
Fortunately, our body also produces antioxidants which neutralize the effect of the free radicals. The function of the naturally produced antioxidants in our body is to counterbalance the free radicals that are produced in the various metabolic activities of body cells. Many studies have been done on the effects of free radicals which have revealed that excessive free radicals in the body lead to host of health problems like cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancers, Alzheimer, memory loss, arthritis, early ageing, etc. Medical fraternity trusts the positive role of antioxidants in Management or prevention of these diseases.
It has also been found that some food (mostly fruits and vegetables) have rich natural antioxidants ingredients, and their consumption is considered to lower the potential damage from the free radicals. Some vitamins like vitamins C and E along with minerals like Selenium and flavonoids found in some natural plants are included as antioxidants. The variety of antioxidants required for healthy living can be best sourced from regular intake of different types of fruits and vegetables in the daily diet. Reliance on one type of antioxidant may not provide adequate protection. Typically every healthy individual is recommended to include 7 – 10 helpings of fruits and vegetables per day.
There are also dietary supplements available on the market which claim to be made from organic extracts and are rich in antioxidants. The option of using branded dietary supplement is more appealing to people who complaint of non-availability of different types of fruits and vegetables as well as other constraints in including them in its natural form in the daily diet.