Antioxidants, Source for Healthy Living

The term antioxidant generally refers to a substance or a compound that prevents the consumption of oxygen. In biology, antioxidants were primarily used to prevent the oxidation of unsaturated fats which causes rancidity. Antioxidants took on a more different and greater significance when scientists were able to identify vitamin A, C and E as antioxidants. This further led scientists to believe of the importance of antioxidants in various life processes.

Although complex life on Earth need oxygen in order to survive, this element may also have the capability of damaging living organisms by producing reactive oxygen molecules that promote oxidative damage to the cells. In general, antioxidants help prevent the formation of the reactive oxygen molecules, also called free radicals, or remove them before they can do damage to the vital parts of the cell.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances in foods that help counter the effects of the oxygen free radicals formed during normal metabolic processes in the body and which can also be formed through pollution, ultraviolet radiation or x-rays. These free radicals have been known to cause the development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants have been considered as part of preventive treatments to help put a stop to such diseases from developing.

Where get the antioxidants?

Plants are known to be rich sources of antioxidants. In fact, most of the antioxidants that humans consume come from plants. Antioxidants such as the vitamins A, C and E can usually be found in different types of plants, mostly fruits and vegetables. Other compounds such as carotenoids like beta-carotene, phenolic compounds as well as some minerals that also have antioxidant properties can be sourced from fruits and vegetables.

Measuring antioxidant content in plant sources may be complex since this composes a diverse group of compounds that react differently to reactive oxygen molecules. The standard being used to assessing the antioxidant strength of foods has been the ORAC, or the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. This standard is used most especially in food industries making fruit juices, whole foods and even food additives.

Consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables in the daily diet can help lower down one’s risk to certain diseases. Studies have shown that people who consume five to six servings of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants are known to have lower risk of cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants have also been known to provide protection against a number of age related degenerative diseases.