Our body is made up of millions of cells. These cells face threats every day from various external environmental stresses. These stresses trigger generation of free radicals, which are highly reactive atomic species. Free radicals can damage your cells, DNA and wreak a havoc in metabolism. Some cells have the capability to heal from the damage, while others do not. Scientists believe free radicals can contribute to the ageing process of our body.
Antioxidants are chemicals that help in stopping or limiting these damages caused by free radicals. Our body uses antioxidants to balance free radicals which prevent them from causing damage to other cells. Antioxidants also help in boosting our immunity. Free radicals can be triggered by either natural or man-made causes. For example:
- Ultra-violet rays from the sun or tanning beds
- Substances found in processed food
- Chemicals our body produces by turning food into energy
- Environmental toxins - tobacco, alcohol and pollution
We can help fight and reduce these free radicals and limit the damage they cause. Quitting smoking, getting adequate sun exposure, and eating healthy can help in the cause along with Antioxidants. Although our body naturally produces some Antioxidants, we can also keep our requirements updated by enriching our diet with certain foods and vitamins. Common Antioxidants include:
- Vitamin A - milk, butter, eggs, liver
- Vitamin C - fruits such as berries, oranges, kiwis, cantaloupes, papayas. Vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale
- Vitamin E - almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach, kale, soybean, sunflower, corn, canola oils
- Beta-carotene - fruits such as peaches, apricots, papayas, mangoes, cantaloupes. Vegetables such as peas, squash, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes
- Lycopene – pink/red fruits & vegetables like grapefruits, watermelon, apricots, tomato
- Lutein - green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, kale, broccoli, peas
- Selenium - pasta, bread, grains, corn, wheat, rice. Animal products, like eggs, beef, fish, turkey, chicken
Each Antioxidant has a different chemical makeup and provides different health benefits. Intake of too much of one Antioxidant can become harmful. Therefore, always consult a doctor before changing the diet or taking supplements. Research has shown that genetics influence Antioxidant requirement in humans. The best to find out is taking a genetic test and then personalizing your nutrition plan in accordance with your genetic report and dietician.
- Kanchan Naikawadi, Preventive Healthcare Specialist & Managing Director, Indus Health Plus