Why Foods With Antioxidants Are So Important To Your Diet
It is a well recognized fact that if you want to increase your health and well being, you need to include foods in your diet that supply a well balanced mix of antioxidants. The vitamins, minerals and proteins that neutralize the free radicals released by the absorption of oxygen bonded molecules are often dependent upon several combinations of these substances to work properly.
To begin with, processed foods often fall short in this requirement. Through the manufacture and processing methods used, the existing antioxidant compounds are usually already exposed to the oxygen in the air and have been neutralized by it. This does not mean that such prepared foods are worthless, just that they have had their usefulness as antioxidants diminished.
As anyone who has studied even the most rudimentary biology knows, almost all living organisms require oxygen to live. However, oxygen is a very reactive element and can equally cause damage to the very tissues it keeps alive. This process of oxidation occurs in both animals and plants.
Oxidation occurs with the transfer of oxygen bonded molecules through the tissues of the body. As these molecules pass by other non-oxygen bonded molecules, electrons (the negatively charged particles of the atom) can be scraped loose and cause reactions of their own. These “free radicals” will attempt to find other molecules that they can bond with which will cause a chain reaction which scrapes more electrons from more atoms with oxygen bonded into them. This discharge of negatively charged energy can disrupt the normal bonding functions of the atomic particles that make up the body’s cell walls.
It has been shown that oxidation is a major cause of the aging process in the body. However, the living organisms this affects have devised ways by which this process can be slowed down or stopped. Minerals such as vitamins A, C and D along with certain naturally occurring enzymes have demonstrated the ability to remove this molecular wild card. These antioxidants work on the areas of DNA and proteins to repair the damage that can be caused by this “rusting” of the organic tissue.
A proper balance of iron binding proteins will allow the extra “free radical” oxygen electrons to be captured and safely synthesized. Zinc and selenium are other extremely important metals which will inhibit the increase of these damaging electrons.
Since the correct functioning of these antioxidant systems require coordinated interaction between various antioxidant agents in the body, a well balanced and varied diet is needed to maintain efficient supplies of these many mineral and chemical compounds.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a very active antioxidant. As well as preventing or diminishing a multitude of illnesses, vitamin C is very active in the absorbtion of the free radical ions released by oxidation of oxygen bonded molecules. In its most natural and useful form, vitamin C is prevalent in fresh fruits to a high degree. Many vegetables, especially green ones also provide significantly high levels of vitamin C.
Vitamin E (tocopherol) is especially effective in the reduction of free radicals and can help prevent the wrinkling and aging of the skin. Using vegetable oils for cooking will increase the intake of vitamin E. It is a much healthier solution than fatty oils made from animal substances and does not increase cholesterol intake.
To boost the polyphenolic antioxidants, green tea is especially useful. Even coffee provides some of these needed antioxidants although to a much lesser degree than tea. These antioxidants are also found in sufficient amount in such diverse foods as chocolate, soy and oregano. Red wine is also a very good source for these antioxidants and is why a glass of table wine with a meal is actually a healthy choice.