Antioxidants — Benefits and Uses Overview
Antioxidants are important nutrients that help us maintain optimal health and prevent disease. They may even slow the aging process.
Who Needs Antioxidants?
Everyone needs antioxidants as part of their diet for optimal health. Free radicals are byproducts of normal metabolism and energy production, but also can be triggered by many environmental toxins such as chemicals, air pollutants, smoke, and UV rays. These unstable molecules naturally attract the atoms they need from healthy tissue, leaving that tissue damaged. They can even damage DNA, causing cancer and other diseases, as well as the aging process.
Antioxidant nutrients are organic nutrients that neutralize free radicals. The more antioxidants you have in your body, the fewer free radicals are circulating, damaging your tissues. In this way, antioxidants prevent disease.
Antioxidant Nutrient Overview
Some of the key antioxidant nutrients for optimal health include Vitamins A, C, and E; carotenoids and flavonoids; Vitamin B-complex; minerals calcium, magnesium, and selenium; and ginkgo biloba.
- Indoles: Indoles are a subclass of phytonutrients that interact with Vitamin C. Most fresh fruits and vegetables that contain indoles are also high Vitamin C. Indole complexes are thought to rid the body of chemical carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Anthocyanidins: Anthocyanidins are in a select group of flavonoids–a type of antioxidant also known as flavonals—that can help sweep up free radicals produced in the fluid surrounding muscle tissue during strenuous exercise. Anthocyanidins are found in blue-purple colored foods such as grapes and blueberries.
- Catechins: Catechins differ slightly in chemical structure from other flavonoids. The most common catechins are gallic acids—epicatechin gallate (ECG), epicatechin (EC), and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—all of which are found in green tea (Camellia sinensis) and give that plant its health benefits.
- Isoprenoids: Isoprenoids are organic chemicals sometimes called terpenoids found in cloves, ginger, and menthol. Isoprenoids neutralize free radicals by teaming up with other antioxidants.
- Lipoic acid: Lipoic acid is an important antioxidant that enhances the effects of other antioxidants. It is found in broccoli, spinach, potatoes, and some organ meat. Lipoic acid is effective against the specific free radicals peroxyl, hydroxyl, ascorbyl, and chromanoxyl. Lipoic acid also protects both Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and glutathione.
- Phenols: Phenols are phytonutrients contained in blue, blue-red, and violet plant pigments such as those found in some berries, grapes, bilberries, and eggplant. Phenolic anthocyanidins have the ability to neutralize free radical molecules in fats.
Important Antioxidant Foods
Here are some of the best places to find antioxidants with their other uses and benefits.
- Black currant: Black currant (Ribes nigrum) is a berry historically used in Europe as a diuretic and treatment for sore throats, colds, and flu. The oil of the black currant seed is a rich source of antioxidants and essential fatty acids, including linoleic acid, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and alpha linoleic acid. These fatty acids are converted in the body to prostaglandin, which is necessary for fighting infection. Black currant’s antioxidants include anthocyanidins.
- Black rice: Available in Asian markets and online, black rice is rich in antioxidants and easy to work into the diet.
- Black elder: The dark berries of the black elder (Sambucus nigra) contain large amounts of antioxidants Vitamins A and C, and higher concentrations of the antioxidants anthocyanins than either cranberries or blueberries. Black elder berries contain large amounts of antioxidant flavonoids, including quercetin. Warning: North American black elder varieties may contain alkaloids that are highly toxic. Use berries from a trusted source.
- Blueberries: Blueberries have proven to be a tasty and easily-digestible source of anthocyanins and other antioxidants.
- Cranberry: The cranberry is the fruit of a shrub (Oxycoccos) that may be useful to prevent and treat urinary tract infections. Cranberry juice is high in phenols and Vitamin C; one study showed that drinking a glass of cranberry juice boosted the antioxidants in the bloodstream by more than 25 percent.
- Cress: Cress (Barbarea verna) is a cruciferous vegetable that contains mustard oil and glycosides, both of which stimulate the kidneys and fortify the stomach and gallbladder. Cress may help improve metabolism and treat gout and other joint disorders. Cress is rich in iron, calcium, and three antioxidant vitamins—A, C, and E. It may be one of the easiest antioxidant-rich foods to grow at home.
- Mangosteen: Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is an evergreen tree whose fruit is rich in xanthone, a powerful antioxidant capable of clearing free radical molecules from the digestive tract, respiratory system, and joints.
- Prickly pear: Prickly pear cactus, also known as nopal, contains minerals, vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidants. It can be eaten (although it should not be used by anyone with kidney or liver disease). Prickly pear cactus can interact with pharmaceutical medications.
Antioxidant Seasonings and Supplements
- Citrin: Citrin is a bioflavonoid antioxidant drawn from the outer rinds of fruits of the Indian plant Garcinia Cambogia. Citrin may slow down the rate at which the liver synthesizes fats like cholesterol and help make more glycogen (another liver product) available in the bloodstream, which may suppress the appetite.
- Cumin: Recent studies prove this spice, used often in Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Mediterranean foods, is high in phenolic antioxidants.
- Dill weed: Dill weed (Anethum graveolens) is a flowering plant rich in Vitamin C, minerals, and flavonoids. Dill weed is generally used as a flavoring, but it also a consistent source of phenols. Even dill pickles contain some antioxidants.
- Figwort: Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa) is a tall, snapdragon-like plant that contains iridoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. Figwort should not be used by people with heart disease because it can stimulate the heart.
- Fumitory: Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) is an herb that contains many important medicinal alkaloids as well as the antioxidant flavonoids rutin and fumaric acid. Fumitory tea is considered a tonic for indigestion.
- Germanium: Germanium is one of the trace minerals found in garlic, green leafy vegetables, shitake mushrooms and tuna. It appears to play a role as an oxygen catalyst, antioxidant, electro-stimulant, and an immune system enhancer. Germanium has been used to treat cancer in Japan. It also may stimulate the body’s production of gamma interferon, an anti-viral agent.
- Herb Robert: Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum F. Geraniaceae) is an annual herb and adaptogen, meaning the body can use it for many healing purposes. Herb Robert is a source of the trace element germanium, and is sometimes given to patients with untreatable cancers.
- Glutathione: Glutathione is a natural substance produced by the body to neutralize free radicals before they can do harm. Glutathione occurs naturally in fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. As a supplement, glutathione is not well-digested, so it is sometimes administered intravenously. Supplements are available that claim to raise glutathione levels by supplying the amino acid cysteine and all other molecular precursors to glutathione, but there is not yet clinical evidence that this works. Recent studies indicate that glutathione may nourish healthy cells but not cancerous cells, making it a potential cancer drug.
- Hawthorn: Hawthorn (genus Crataegus) is high in flavonoid content, which gives hawthorn its powerful antioxidant effect. Flavonoids may help dilate blood vessels, improving circulation, as well as protecting the veins and arteries in the heart.
- Milk thistle: Milk thistle is a flowering plant that contains silybin (also called silymarin), an antioxidant more powerful than Vitamins C or E that is especially effective at detoxifying the liver and clearing free radicals created by environmental toxins, alcohol, and chemotherapy drugs.
- Blessed thistle: Blessed thistle (also known as tulsi) is cultivated throughout the world as an herbal medicine. It is rich in sesquiterpene lactones, which are antioxidants related to isoprenoids.
- Pau d’arco: Pau d’arco, made from the bark of the Tabebuia impetiginosa tree, contains flavonoids that may be effective against certain cancers.
- Rutivite: Rutivite is a food supplement made from the green buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) that contains rutin, a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent free radicals from damaging healthy tissue in the blood vessels and parts of the body recovering from injury.
- Tormentil: Tormentil (genus Potentilla) is a perennial in the rose family known for its antioxidant power, especially for skin and intestinal disorders.
The information on this site it intended for general inquiry and informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you, or those under your care, are ill or in need of health care, please seek immediate medical attention. Always consult a doctor or other competent licensed clinical for specific advice about medical treatments for yourself or those under your care. Any use of, or reliance in any way upon, the information contained in the AlternativZ site and/or accessed through this site is solely at your own risk.
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