Anti-Oxidants and Where To Find Them
Every day, the cells of your body burn fuel (taken in as food) for energy. As a result,
fragments of molecules called "free radicals" are produced internally. Once released within the body, free radicals can do great damage.
By definition, a free radical has an unpaired electron. In order to stabilize itself, it will scavenge another electron from wherever it can. When it gets its electron from healthy cells or tissues, it damages them and essentially turns them into more free radicals that will continue the internal assault. As this process continues, it produces the effect we know of as “aging”.
Fortunately, Nature has accounted for this process and provided the means to neutralize it in the form of antioxidants. While vitamins A, C and E were previously thought to be the main antioxidants, more recent research has revealed that a host of phytonutrients – derived from fruits and vegetables – are far more effective at repairing oxidative damage.
These amazing scroungers of free radicals can be found in fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, apricots, berries, papayas, cantaloupe, and nectarines; dark vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, cabbage, kale, yams, squash, and broccoli; nuts; seeds; and wheat germ. Others can be found in certain meats and dairy products.
Here we’ll offer examples of the carotenoids, natural fat-soluble pigments found in many plants, algae and certain bacteria. Carotenoids are mainly responsible for orange, red, green and yellow colors in fruits, vegetables, flowers and leaves. More than 600 varieties have been identified so far, but we’ll mention beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene to get you started.
Once your body gets hold of some food containing beta-carotene, it’s able to produce vitamin A, a process that takes place in the liver. This is only one of the reasons why an occasional liver cleanse can benefit you. Found principally in dark-green, yellow or orange vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, pumpkin (and its seeds), sweet potatoes, kale, mustard greens, asparagus, cantaloupe and watermelon, your body can also extract beta-carotene from eggs and fish.
Vitamin A from natural sources can be used to support the eyes, boost immune function, and help prevent heart disease and the formation of carcinogens. Vitamin A supplements can’t even begin to match the benefits your body receives when you feed it whole, natural foods from which it can gather this vitamin on its own.
This antioxidant is found in dark leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale or spinach, but also in egg yolks (yes, they’re good for you), peaches and oranges. Lutein-containing foods have been linked to a lower incidence of cataracts and macular degeneration, especially in the elderly.
Bless the tomato! Lycopene is naturally found in high concentrations in the prostate gland – of all places – and evidently helps protect against prostate cancer. Lycopene is 2 to 3 times more potent as an antioxidant than beta-carotene. Fortunately, the tomato is the perhaps the only fruit or vegetable that provides more lycopene when cooked.
This antioxidant is responsible for the bright-red color it gives to tomatoes, guavas, red peppers, ruby red grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, peaches and blood oranges, as well as spinach, kale, asparagus, red cabbage and carrots.