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FIGHT FREE RADICALS with antioxidants
25August/2015

FIGHT FREE RADICALS with antioxidants

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WORDS Matt Weik

We can visualise the effect free radicals have on the body by cutting an apple open and sitting it on the table. After a couple of minutes, the apple starts to turn brown - this is due to free radical damage. Now, in order to prevent the apple turning brown, it is best to put some lemon juice on it. The antioxidants from the lemon juice protect the apple from being attacked. Antioxidants can also help protect the body from free radical damage.

Free radical damage can also be seen on poles or railings when they rust. Rust is due to the oxidation of the metal. Think of antioxidants as Rust-Oleum. The more coats of Rust-Oleum that you put on the pole, the longer the pole is protected. The same goes for the human body. The more antioxidants that are taken in, the more protected the body is against free radical damage.

Free radical damage can do numerous things to cells: mutate the cell, damage the cell, and even kill the cell. If any one of these things happens, it can negatively affect an individual’s health, which is why it is important to understand antioxidants, what they can do for you, and where to find them.

What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are chemicals that reduce the rate of oxidation to cells and biomolecules. Oxidation is where chemical reactions transfer electrons from a substance to an oxidising agent, which results in changing the original chemical to something different. Free radicals are the main culprits in damaging cells. Antioxidant-rich foods and supplements help prevent free radical damage.

A large number of antioxidants are found in dietary supplements used to help prevent cancer and heart disease, not to mention to help with everyday overall health. And while dietary supplements only have specific antioxidants in their products, a good diet can yield thousands of different antioxidants.

What is the purpose of antioxidants?
Antioxidants may be the next best thing to sliced bread. They help boost the immune system, which prevents cellular damage and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. There is a lot of research being done on antioxidants and the research that is out there today all looks good. Antioxidants may slow down, prevent, and even reverse certain diseases that come about due to cells that have been damaged. This all sounds fine and dandy, but the big kicker is that research is actually showing that antioxidants could be a natural way to slow down the ageing process. No more need for “the fountain of youth”- just make sure you are getting ample antioxidants in your diet each day.

Does exercise also fight free radicals?
Did you know that exercise actually causes more free radical damage within the body? But don’t let this crush your spirits as the positives of exercise greatly outweigh the negatives. When exercising, oxygen consumption is increased (at least it should be if you are working hard enough) and this causes an increase in free radicals, which damage cells and cause muscular fatigue. The body uses naturally occurring antioxidants to help reduce free radical damage.

The good side of this story is that evidence shows that exercising strengthens the body’s antioxidant defence system. It is because of this that diseases associated with oxidative stress are found at a lower incidence rate in individuals who exercise.

What are some specific antioxidants?
Vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and coenzyme Q10 are all antioxidants that protect lipid membranes while vitamin C, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase protect the body from free radicals that are found in water-based cytoplasm.

A great place to find antioxidants is in our diet. Vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts are all great sources of antioxidants. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries all have an abundant amount of antioxidants in them. Spinach and capsicums are both great vegetable sources of antioxidants. Grains that have a good amount of antioxidants include barley, corn and millet. A place that not many people would think to look for antioxidants is in cocoa products such as dark and some milk chocolate – but they’re there! For those who wish to drink their antioxidants - coffee, red wines, and teas such as black, green, and white are great for battling free radicals. Those looking for a healthy snack can also find antioxidants in almonds, pecans and pistachios.

EAT YOUR ANTIOXIDANTS:
Vegetables:
Onions
Ginger
Garlic
Chives
Tomatoes
Carrots
Kale
Spinach
Green leafy vegetables
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Brussels sprouts
Peas

Fruit:
Grapes
Blueberries
Strawberries
Cherries
Apples
Grapefruit
Cranberries
Raspberries
Blackberries
Pomegranate
Orange
Plum
Pineapple
Lemon
Dates
Kiwi
Clementine
Watermelon
Apricots
Prunes

Nuts:
Walnuts
Sunflower seeds

Legumes:
Soybeans
Broad beans
Pinto beans
Ground nut

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