Antioxidants and Free Radicals
What to Eat to Protect Your Health
By Dr. Joseph Mercola
with Rachael Droege
Antioxidants are powerful nutrients found in certain foods. As their name suggests, they work to protect your health by fighting against free radicals in your body and preventing damage from oxidation. Antioxidants are a necessity to every diet because no matter how healthy a lifestyle you lead you will be exposed to free radicals. In fact, we are all exposed to free radicals everyday.
Some free radicals are generated from normal body functions like breathing, metabolism and physical activity. Others are created by the immune system to neutralize viruses and bacteria. Still others are a result of environmental factors including pollution, radiation, herbicides and cigarette smoke. Free radicals attack healthy cells, causing them to weaken and become more susceptible to disease.
While your body is certainly capable of neutralizing free radicals, if you:
· Eat a mostly junk food/processed food diet
· Don't get enough sleep
· Are under a lot of stress
· Are exposed to a high number of free radicals (via pollution, smoking, etc.)
... then your body may become overwhelmed and damage can occur. Further, free radical damage does accumulate with age so the longer your lifestyle and/or environment permits free radical damage, the greater the consequences will be later on.
The easiest and most important way to stop free radical damage is to fortify your diet with antioxidant-rich foods (Of course, if you smoke or live in an excessively polluted environment, quitting or moving, respectively, may be a worthwhile investment in your future health.). These will provide natural protection from environmental and inherent free radical exposure. But that's not all. Antioxidants are important for many reasons, some of which are just beginning to be explained.
For instance, flavonoids, found fruits and vegetables, are the largest group of several thousand compounds belonging to the antioxidant-rich polyphenol family. Flavonoids are further broken down into subclasses that you have likely heard of such as anthocyanins, flavonols, flavones, flavanones and flavanols. Research has shown very clearly that flavonoids have many health-promoting properties. As written in The Antioxidant Miracle, flavonoids:
· Improve memory and concentration and are used to treat attention deficit disorder
· Are powerful free radical scavengers that can boost the effectiveness of vitamin C in the antioxidant network
· Regulate nitric oxide, a potent free radical that is a regulator of blood flow
· Keep your heart healthy in three important ways: They prevent blood clots, protect against oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and lower high blood pressure
· Improve sexual function in men
· Reduce inflammation and bolster immune function
If you are already following the diet plan recommended in my new book, then you are likely getting plenty of antioxidants from the foods you eat. However, most Americans do not eat nearly enough antioxidant-rich foods. The topic is becoming so important that a June 2004 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture analyzed the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods and released a list of the top antioxidant fruits, vegetables and nuts. Among the top rankings were berries, including wild blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries, and beans and artichokes also ranked surprisingly high.
Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) have also ranked blueberries #1 in antioxidant activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables, as they contain powerful phytochemicals, such as anthocyanin, which is the pigment that gives blueberries their color.
A study in the June 2003 Journal of Nutrition found that natural compounds in Bing cherries may reduce painful arthritic inflammation and help lessen the severity of other inflammatory conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer. Although this study was done with cherries, it is likely that blueberries will cause the same improvement.
How to Fortify Your Diet With Antioxidants
So how can you get more antioxidants into your diet? One of the quickest ways is to make a vegetable juice, using vegetables tailored to your metabolic type, with some added fresh blueberries, cherries or other berries.
You can certainly opt to eat fresh berries as well, but due to their sugar content I don't recommend eating too many at once, as this will cause your insulin levels to rise.
But no matter what source you choose, be sure to include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet everyday. Doing so will protect your body from the long-term and cumulative effects of free radical damage. There are so many antioxidant-rich foods to choose from that it's easy to find the ones you enjoy and make them a regular part of your meals.
Antioxidants: The Good, The Bad and the Evil
Berries--The Best Overall Fruits for Your Health
Berries: A Great Source of Plant Antioxidants
Want to Live Longer? Eat More Flavonoids!
Plant Compounds Eradicate Disease
More Antioxidants in Organic Food Than Conventionally Grown Food
Source URL :