Getting natural benefits of antioxidants

Antioxidants: popular for last 10 years!

Around a decade ago, scientists at Harvard University made an amazing discovery.

They found that people who ate more fruit and vegetables didn’t seem to suffer from cardiovascular disease, cancer and other serious illnesses, as much as those who had a less healthy diet. Not only that, but they did some experiments, and revealed that fruit and veg contain potent chemicals called antioxidants, which were probably the mysterious life-saving ingredient.

Antioxidants became hugely popular as a result, especially in supplement form, and millions of people began taking them in the hope of warding off disease.

Then, just as suddenly, a few years ago antioxidants suffered a fall from grace. Some scientists started wondering whether they had the same positive effects inside the body as they do in test tubes, and it sparked off an international debate.

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Antioxidants - getting scientists exited

It’s a particularly exciting arena of research for scientists, because the potential health benefits of antioxidants are huge.

A great deal of time and money is being invested in trials and studies on them, and we should soon have a more exact picture of how they work. In the meantime, it’s still good news: many doctors have come out in support of antioxidants, especially with regard to their effects on heart health and degenerative disease.

So what exactly are they?

Antioxidants are basically the super-heroes of the body’s internal cleaning team.

They neutralise free radicals which are the unstable oxidized particles produced during the course of normal metabolism, and from toxins in pollution, food and smoking. Without the requisite army of antioxidants in the body, free radicals would ravage the tissues, causing it to age quickly and develop a host of unpleasant health conditions.

Where can I find them?

Some of the most powerful antioxidants are those you’ve probably already heard about:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is especially important for the adrenal glands and for the production of collagen. It also plays a key role in brain function, and producing energy in the body’s cells. Recent research also seems to show that it may affect blood cholesterol levels.

As a free-radical buster, vitamin C is hard to beat. Even in small quantities, it protects the body from oxidative damage. It might also be able to regenerate other vitamins such as vitamin E.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is often used in skin creams because it may help skin heal and reduce scarring after injuries such as burns.

Vitamin E saves the body’s fats from oxidization by free radicals and stops them turning into “bad” cholesterol that causes clogged arteries and cardiovascular disease.


Flavonoids (or bioflavonoids) give plants their yellow, red or blue colours and are found in high quantities in certain fruits, herbs and vegetables, such as green tea (Camellia sinensis), and citrus fruits.

They’re often called “nature’s biological response modifiers” because they help us react appropriately to viruses, carcinogens and allergens, by giving a boost to the immune system.

Coenzyme Q10

CoQ10 is a natural chemical compound that we make in our bodies and consume in oily fish, organ meats, and whole grains. It’s a major player in the body’s energy production system, and contributes to vital activities such as muscle contraction and production of protein.

CoQ10 can help you fight fatigue, lose weight, and strengthen your immune system.


Beta-carotene and lycopene, among other carotenoids, are another type of plant pigment, giving carrots their characteristic orange colour, for example, and making tomatoes red.

There are several dozen carotenoids in the foods that we eat, mainly in fruit and vegetables, and most of these carotenoids have antioxidant activity (lycopene is probably the most potent kind).

We all know that carrots are good for the eyesight, and that’s because of their beta-carotene content. But did you know that tomatoes help reduce the incidence of prostate cancer? Lutein is one of the carotenoid xanthophylls (yellow pigments) found in spinach, and is also great for the eyes as well as helping to prevent lung cancer.

Yet another kind of yellow pigment also wards off disease:

Turmeric extract

It comes from the roots of the turmeric plant and can be used to treat Alzheimer's disease, memory problems, arthritis and cancer.

Vitamin B

The B vitamins are eight water-soluble vitamins that are important for cell metabolism, and promote cell growth and division. They also maintain muscles and skin, improve the immune system and nervous system. Together, they help ward off stress, depression and cardiovascular disease.

Folic acid

Folic acid and folate (the anion form) are forms of the water-soluble Vitamin B9 found in leaf vegetables, peas, fortified cereal, sunflower seeds and liver. They’re necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells, especially during childhood and pregnancy. Folate is required for making DNA and preventing aneamia and even cancer.

Alpha-lipoic acid

This is the newest kid on the antioxidant block. It helps the body turn carbohydrates into energy, It can also reduce the problems associated with diabetes, as well as brain diseases including Parkinson’s disease and epilespy, and may additionally help HIV sufferers keep their antioxidant levels from dropping.

To be sure of getting the correct dose of antioxidants, make sure you consume at least five largish portions of various fruit and vegetables every day. In addition, you can boost that intake with a high-quality supplement and increase your chances of achieving an optimal level of health.

Medical references

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