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NUTRITION CORNER: Antioxidants reduce damage caused by free radicals to the body cells

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) recommended that we “eat a variety of foods everyday”, and “eat more fruits, vegetables and root crops” to eliminate our  problem of meeting the daily requirements of nutrients known as antioxidants.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine defines antioxidant as a chemical compound or substance that reduces the damage caused by oxidation such as the harm caused by free radicals. Antioxidants which include selenium, vitamin A and the related carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E, plus various phytochemicals such as lycopene, lutein, and quercetin protect the cells in the body from free radical damage that occur from exposure to certain chemicals, smoking, pollution, radiation, and as a byproduct of normal metabolism.

If free radicals are not neutralized, they can travel through the body cells, disrupt the structures of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates and cause cell damage that contribute to aging and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cataracts and the like.

Among the health benefits that we derive from antioxidants are the following:

They lower cholesterol levels, both by breaking up bad LDL cholesterol and by protecting and aiding the liver; prevent hardening of the arteries, protect the heart muscle and aid the stabilization of blood sugars and strengthen overall vascular health.

Antioxidants are antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial, and so they strengthen the body’s immune system.

They reduce the risk of all types of cancer; help the body detoxify especially carcinogens and other pollutants.

Antioxidants help prevent glaucoma and cataracts.

They stop the damage to brain cells so they grow and divide properly.

Research has found that some antioxidant compounds have COX 2 inhibitors stopping the spread of pain and then helping reduce swelling.  They also lower fever (anti-pyretic) and helps the body recover from sickness more quickly.

Antioxidants have been used for centuries to treat skin disorders such as dermatitis, infections from wounds, ringworm, acne etc. Some antioxidents have active compounds in the fight against HIV.

Fruits that are rich sources of vitamin C include guava, star fuit or carambola, kamachili, citrus, cashew nuts, sugar apple, and oranges.

Dark green vegetables such as malunggay, camote tops, kangkong, pechay and kulitis; and yellow fruits and vegetables like carrots, squash, tomato, mango, papaya, and egg fruit (tiesa) are rich in Beta-carotene.

Foods such as nuts and legumes, germ oil from wheat, corn, cottonseed and by-products such as mayonnaise, salad dressing and margarine and animal sources such as egg yolk, liver, butter, and milk are big sources of Vitamin E.

Lycopene is found in processed fruits like tomato catsup and pineapples. Grapes, apples, soy and soy products are also rich sources of antioxidants.#

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