Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Power of Antioxidants

Our bodies are designed to take care of themselves. There are systems within it for providing nutrients and for excreting the toxins. Antioxidants play a major role in removing these toxins from our body. Since they are so important in ridding us of harmful waste, it is vital that we have some knowledge of what antioxidants are, how they work and what kinds of foods and dietary supplements can provide us with their health benefits.

Antioxidants are a group of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that work to protect our bodies from forming free radicals. Free radicals in the body are atoms or groups of atoms that cause cell damage which impairs the immune system. Free radicals may be formed in a number of different ways. They can be caused by any number of bodily functions even the process of breaking down fat cells into usable energy.

To better explain this, our bodies are similar to a car. Each needs the proper fuel to perform to its peak. But just like the engines in our cars, our bodies don't burn the fuel efficiently. This poor conversion results in exhaust fumes in our car and free radicals in our body.

Most commonly, the free radicals are missing an electron due to some metabolic process. The negative atom attempts to correct itself by pulling an electron from another cell. The damage begins at that point and a chain of cells pulling electrons from one another starts to form. As a result, this can lead to infections and degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In addition, recent studies have shown that damage caused by free radicals may be a major factor in the aging process.

Other causes are cigarette smoke (even second-hand), overexposure to the sun, exposure to radiation as well as inhaling or ingesting any of the pollutants common in our air, water and food chain.

Luckily, our bodies have a built-in weapon against this enemy. Free radical scavengers, such as enzymes, are naturally produced in the body. They seek out and bond with the free radicals. This bonding neutralizes the destructive action that occurs in the cells.

However, with the increased levels of toxins that we are subjected to daily, the antioxidants that the body supplies may fall short of the demand. Therefore, we might consider changing our diet to increase certain foods and taking nutritional supplements that will provide additional antioxidants for the body to use.

As you have probably read in many popular magazines, vitamins A, C and E have been found to act as very good antioxidants. Foods that offer high levels of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables, particularly the yellow-green vegetables. Other herbs and supplements that serve as antioxidants are: Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Bilberry, Chokeberry, Elderberry, Coenzyme Q10, Cysteine, Glyconutrients, Ginkgo Biloba, Glutathione, Grape Seed Extract, Green Tea, Pine Bark Extract, Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins, Pycnogenol, Melatonin, Selenium, Magnesium, Superoxide Dismutase, Beta-Carotene and Zinc.

For more information on natural health topics discussed in this article or to suggest ideas for an article, you may contact me through my website.

About the Author
Jerry Ryan, Ph.D. is a Natural Health Coach who teaches individuals and group classes on the scientifically documented benefits of natural health techniques. He is also an internationally published author and has been a guest speaker at such places as NIKE World Headquarters. For more information, his website is

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