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It is common knowledge that food plays a vital role in keeping one healthy and fit. However, there are certain foods that are more effective than others in boosting immunity and keeping infections at bay. Among these are foods that are rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are nothing but minerals, vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients that help the human body protect and repair its cells from the damage that it suffers due to free radicals.
The free radicals are harmful components that expose our cells to oxidation, resulting in cell damage and compromised immunity; leading to several chronic diseases such as heart ailments, arthritis and even cancer. Antioxidants not only fight free radicals and prevent oxidation; they also reverse the ill-effects of oxidation on the cells of our body and help repair them.
Types of antioxidants and their sources
Antioxidants are of many kinds, with each having its own unique benefit to our body. They are easily available through our diet or dietary supplements. It is recommended that one must take at least four to five servings of fruits and vegetables in a day to get ample supply of antioxidants.
Antioxidant vitamins – There are three types of antioxidant vitamins. These are – Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta-carotene.
- Sources: Food sources rich in antioxidant vitamins include fruits such as – apricots, peaches, pink grapes, mangoes, water melon and tangerines. Some vegetables such as - beet root, asparagus, carrots, corn, spinach, pumpkin, tomatoes, sweet potato and turnip are also rich sources.
Antioxidant Minerals – Common antioxidant minerals are – Zinc and selenium.
- Sources: Zinc is commonly found in sea food, oysters, red meat, beans, whole grains, fortified cereal, dairy products, poultry and nuts. Selenium on the other hand is abundant in beef, poultry, whole grains and tuna.
Benefits of antioxidants
Antioxidants have been found to impart numerous health benefits. Some of these are:
- They are known to act as anti-ageing components, reducing wrinkles and improving the texture of the skin.
- They provide natural sun protection and even prevent sun-burns.
- Researchers have even found their effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of several chronic as well as degenerative diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases, immune system dysfunctions, macular degeneration and many others.
- Some antioxidants help keep the urinary tract healthy, especially those in apples and cranberries.
- They are also helpful in maintaining prostrate health.
- Antioxidants protect your eyes and your eye-sight too.
The need for antioxidant dietary supplements
It is often seen that we do not get sufficient antioxidants through our diet. In such a case, dietary supplements, rich in antioxidants prove to be a beneficial alternative. These supplements can also be taken together with a nutritious diet and daily exercising for best results.
Antioxidant supplements are most beneficial to people in the field of sports or athletics due to their intense fitness regime. They also benefit elderly beyond the age of 55 years as their immune systems are compromised with age and need a boost.
Research has shown that cancer patients have experienced a remarkable improvement in their immune system with antioxidant supplements. In addition, vegetarians can also supplement their diet with additional antioxidants to make up for what they lose out by not consuming non-vegetarian foods.
Dietary supplements rich in antioxidants are herbal in nature. The most common antioxidant-rich-herbs found in these supplements are- green tea, rosemary, jiaogulan and grape seed.
Tips for taking antioxidant rich dietary supplements
Balanced diet - If you want to incorporate antioxidant supplements in your daily diet, you must remember to have a balanced diet. A body that is getting ample nutrition from its daily diet, benefits most from antioxidant supplements.
Exercise - In addition to eating right, you also need to stimulate your metabolism with daily exercise and have a regular fitness regime.
Healthy lifestyle - It is vital to remember that smoking; eating tobacco and drinking alcohol reduce the beneficial effects of antioxidants. Lifestyle modifications go a long way in helping the body derive maximum advantages from antioxidant supplements.
Correct dosage - It is advisable that these supplements must always be taken after consultation with a registered practitioner or dietician, to ensure that correct dosage is consumed. Different antioxidants take different time to get flushed out of the body. While some are immediately removed from our system, there are others that accumulate in our body for a longer period. Therefore, unsupervised intake may lead to toxic side-effects, caused as a result of an overdose.
Antioxidants are nature’s gift to us. If they are consumed carefully, together with a nutritious diet, healthy lifestyle habits and daily exercising, we are bound to experience a positive change in our skin and body; one that stays with us throughout our lives keeping diseases and ill-health at bay.