To unlock the mystery behind them, let’s touch on oxygen. We all know that oxygen is basic to life. We cannot survive without it. However, there’s another side to the oxygen story – free radicals.
What are free radicals?
When cells in our body burn oxygen, they form oxygen by-products called “free radicals”. These free radicals can damage body cells and tissues that may lead to the premature aging of the cells, thus, lowering our body’s immunity against diseases such as heart disease and even some forms of cancer.
Where do free radicals come from? First, from our bodies (as we burn oxygen). Also, our daily exposure to harmful factors like air pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, pesticides, and everyday stress can cause free radicals to form in the body.
How do free radicals cause cell damage?
A cut apple turns brown quickly, right? This is called oxidation. But when you dip it in orange juice (which has Vitamin C), it stays white! Why? This is because Vitamin C is an ANTIOXIDANT. It protects the apple against oxidation or the damaging action of free radicals. What happens inside our body is similar: free radicals cause oxidation (cell damage) that weakens our body’s resistance to infection and other health problems. Antioxidants do the same thing — they act as a protective shield against free radicals.
The “fountain of youth”
Antioxidants are dietary substances naturally found in food. In recent years, antioxidants have earned the reputation as the nutritional equivalent of the “fountain of youth”. Fruits and vegetables have an amazing range of heart-friendly nutrients that go beyond the traditional vitamins, minerals and fiber. Studies have shown that they do help cut the risks against heart disease, some forms of cancer, age-related vision problems, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Meet the Powerhouse Foods
These powerhouse foods come mainly from plant sources. Here’s a list of the most well known antioxidants and their food sources. Selenium and manganese, which are not antioxidants themselves, are also listed because they are necessary for the body to create its own natural antioxidants.
Vitamins, Minerals & Phytonutrients: All antioxidant-rich
Vitamin A works as an antioxidant in the form of carotenoids. Beta-carotene, the best-known carotenoid, gives color to carrots and oranges, red and yellow veggies, green leafy vegetables, and sea vegetables. Carotenoids are good for the eyes, the heart and against certain forms of cancer.
Vitamin C is the most popular and widely accepted vitamin. Well-known sources for Vitamin C are a wide range of citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits. Also found in yellow and green leafy vegetables like bell peppers and broccoli. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C protects your body against infection, keeps your gums healthy, and helps maintain a strong immune system.
Selenium is a trace mineral that our bodies use to produce as part of its own defense system. It works with Vitamin E to protect cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals. Foods like meat, seafood, dairy, wheat germ, nuts (particularly Brazil nuts), oats, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice are goodsources of Selenium.
Why tomatoes are red, carrots are orange,
“Phyto” is Greek word that means plant. Plants have pigments that give fruits and veggies their color, flavor and aroma. Theories suggest that these pigments help protect healthy tissues and cells from damage caused by free radicals. Generally, the brighter the color of the fruit or vegetable, the higher its phytonutrients.
Good to know
Minerals are essential nutrients that regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve impulses. Minerals also support the health of the skin and hair and help improve immune function.
Minerals come in two categories: Major minerals and Trace minerals.
Fortunately, it’s nice to know that ocean vegetables contain all these powerful anti-oxidants your body needs…and more. It’s your absolute medicine chest of super nutrition. Enhance your daily diet with seaweeds and you’ll boost your energy and your immunity system!
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