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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Antioxidants and Nutrition


Antioxidants help prevent heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer's. Antioxidant foods contain vitamins C and E, trace elements like selenium and many less familiar compounds. They work by protecting us from the effects of chemicals known as free radicals. The only way to counteract the effects of free radicals is to destroy them, and that's where antioxidants come in.

Fight Free Radical Damage

Antioxidants act as scavengers and interrupt the electronic chain building process that causes free radicals to be produced. This helps to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to cellular damage and disease.

It has been estimated that up to 30 percent of Americans are taking some form of antioxidant supplement.

Antioxidant Food Sources

Sources of Antioxidants: grape seed, blueberries, red wine and brightly coloured fruits which are high in Vitamin C.

These vitamins cannot be manufactured in the body, so must be supplied through 5-8 servings of vegetables and fruits such as dark green leafy vegetables, oranges, red peppers, tomatoes, spinach, and carrots.

Raw or Cooked Food

It was previously thought that eating raw fruits and vegetables rather than cooked provided the highest concentration and best absorption of antioxidants. Studies now show, that in some cases, such as tomatoes, the bioavailability of antioxidants is increased through cooking.

With fast foods, and depleted soils common today, it is often not possible to get sufficient vitamins from fruits and vegetables, so nutritional supplements become vital.

Walnuts – contain an omega-3 called ALA, which lowers your cholesterol, blood pressure, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. This alone can reduce joint pain and help prevent heart disease. Walnuts also have a flavonoid called ellagic acid. This powerful nutrient is in several types of berries and inhibits the growth of cancer cells. high in arginine. Arginine helps make more nitric oxide (NO). This helps your blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow. This is great for your heart [and has the same effect as Viagra in men]. As the oils in the nuts can oxidize, store them in a cool dry place. This will keep them fresh for about six months. Up to a year if you put them in the freezer.

Wine and Grape juice - Red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which raises the level of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Purple grape juice may do almost as well.

Fruits and vegetables, in particular:

  • Spinach, red pepper and other vegetables – contain lutein which blocks plaque formation, preventing heart attacks. It also contains zeaxanthin, a related antioxidant.
  • Tomatoes - ripe, red tomatoes are loaded with beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene, an extremely potent antioxidant.
  • Oregano - has up to 30 times the radical-fighting power of potatoes and 40 times that of apples.
  • Antioxidant Beverages: Tea [particularly green tea], Coffee and Beer. Tea is rich in a family of antioxidants called polyphenols. Studies suggest that two or more cups of tea each day lower risk of dying from any disease by 44 percent over the next four years.

People over 65 whose diets are high in vitamin E in foods have only about one third as much chance of developing Alzheimer's.

WARNING: Scientists at the University of Washington found that smokers who took beta carotene and vitamin A had more risk of developing lung cancer than those who did not.


Predominantly found in tomatoes, lycopene predominantly prevents prostate cancer and some other forms of cancer. Lycopene is deposited in the liver, lungs, prostate gland, colon and skin. Its oncentration in body tissues tends to be higher than all other carotenoids.

Antioxidant Supplements

To really kick your free radical fighting defences into gear, there are a number of power antioxidant supplements available.

Mild Antioxidant Properties

  • L-Cysteine - a sulphur-containing amino acid that acts as a free-radical scavenger.
  • Zinc - a free-radical scavenger and contributes to immune support.
  • Manganese and copper act as mild antioxidants, which metabolize the superoxide free radicals.

More Powerful Antioxidants

  • CoQ-10 - producing energy in cells and also acts as a powerful antioxidant. More on Coenzyme Q-10
  • Pycogenols - found in pine bark extract and grape seed extract. More on Pycogenols
  • Green Tea - helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and is thought to have antimutagenic [anti-cancer] effects.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) - ALA is the only antioxidant that is both fat and water soluble.

Supports Antioxidant Function

  • Selenium
  • Vitamin C
  • Beta Carotene
  • Lutein
  • Vitamin E [d-alpha tocopherol]