Antioxidants include a large number of compounds that work to keep free
radicals at bay. The reason we don’t want free radicals running around
our bodies unchecked is because these unstable molecules cause damage to
cells and tissues. Some experts believe it is the accumulation of damage
that leads to aging and common age-related illnesses such as heart
disease and cancer. Free radicals are formed naturally in the body from
normal metabolic processes such as respiration and turning food into
energy, but they can also be formed from exposure to toxic chemicals,
smoke and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Antioxidants stabilize
free radicals, thus reducing their negative impact on the body.
Vitamin and Mineral Antioxidants
Vitamins E and C are probably the most well known antioxidants. These
two actually work together as Vitamin C helps regenerate Vitamin E.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, green
peppers, potatoes and broccoli. Current antioxidant intake
recommendations range from 200-1000 mg per day which is easily met when
the diet is rich in fruits and vegetables. Advantages of dietary intake
of Vitamin C are all the additional phytochemicals and antioxidants
you’ll be receiving. If you do take a supplement, break up the doses
into 250 mg throughout the day for optimal absorption.
is a fat-soluble antioxidant Vitamin which includes a variety of
compounds called tocopherols and tocotrienols. One of its many jobs is
to protect LDL cholesterol from free-radical damage. LDL cholesterol
that has been damaged by free-radicals has been associated with an
increased risk of heart disease. Some studies have also found Vitamin E
to be protective against prostate cancer. Wheat germ oil, almonds,
sunflower seeds and peanut butter are some of the best sources for
Vitamin E. Vitamin E from the diet contains the right balance of
tocopherols and tocotrienols. When shopping for Vitamin E supplements
look for the natural form “d-alpha”. Also consider Vitamin E with the
“full spectrum” of tocopherols and tocotrienols. 100-400 IU of
supplemental natural Vitamin E may be taken for general health.
Selenium is a mineral with antioxidant properties and works best when
combined with Vitamin E. Dietary sources include Brazil nuts, meats,
fish, wheat germ and garlic. The amount present in foods depends on the
selenium content of the soil. Therapeutic antioxidant recommendations
range from 50-200 micrograms per day. The National Academy of Sciences
has set the tolerable upper limit to 400 mg per day to reduce the risk
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, tea, and even
chocolate are rich in phytochemical antioxidants. There are quite
literally thousands of these compounds present in plant foods that can
act as free-radical scavengers. An orange contains over 170
phytochemicals, many of which have antioxidant activity. This is why it
is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than rely
solely on individual antioxidant supplements.
Carotenoids are compounds
that give red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables their color.
Inside the body some can also be turned into Vitamin A.
Beta carotene - Found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and
kale; may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some
Lycopene - Found in tomato, pink
grapefruit and watermelon; may help protect against prostate cancer and
Zeaxanthin - Found in kale, corn,
egg yolks, spinach and other green veggies; thought to help protect
vision by reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration and
Flavonoids are some of the
most plentiful and potent antioxidants available from the diet. So far,
over 4000 flavonoids have been identified. Tea, cocoa (chocolate),
fruits and vegetables provide most of the dietary flavonoid intake in
the United States.
Resveratrol - Found in red wine (especially rich in Pinot Noir),
grape skins, purple grape juice, mulberries and peanuts; helps lower
cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of cancer.
Quercetin- Found in apples, onions, and
black tea; may help protect against cataracts, various cancers, and
heart disease. EGCG- Found in green tea. It is over 100 times more
powerful than Vitamin C at neutralizing free radicals and 25 times as
powerful as Vitamin E; may help reduce the risk of various cancers and