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What Are Antioxidants And Why Are They Important?
Everywhere you look today you will see something about antioxidant food, these magical somethings that have suddenly appeared in the most expensive food types to help us fight everything from aging to athlete’s foot. What are they? Why are they and are they really important? Are antioxidant recipes going to save us?
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidant covers a very wide range of molecules that are bound together by chemical bonds and have the ability to protect other molecules from oxidation.
Oxidation can damage vital molecules in our cells, this includes our DNA and proteins, both of these are responsible for many essential body processes.
DNA molecules allow cells to function properly, if too many become damaged, those cells can malfunction or die. Antioxidants help prevent or even reduce damage. In our body, uncontrolled oxidation is usually caused by free radicals, highly reactive molecules.
What is oxidation?
Oxidation is when electrons are transferred from one molecule to another. Electrons basically make up everything. When electrons move as a result of an oxidation reaction, the structure of the molecules is changed.
Oxidation is a vital part of our life cycle and involves many important processes.
Cellular respiration is where glucose becomes oxidised by oxygen as we breathe in. This is a life force reaction that produces energy to fuel our bodies, carbon dioxide and water.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons making them unstable and highly reactive. To become stable they need to balance their electrons by losing or gaining an electron.
A free radical tries to steal an electron from some other molecule and starts a chain reaction. When this happens it can permanently change the structure of the molecules involved, causing irreversible damage.
Now when an antioxidant is present, it has a surplus of electrons so can donate an electron to any free radical. This immediately stabilizes it and stops the chain reaction. The antioxidant that has sacrificed itself is then oxidised instead, becoming a free radical. But the antioxidant has the ability to stabilize itself, even with an unpaired electron and so does not become reactive.
Mother Nature is all about balance
Free radicals are a necessary part of our makeup; it’s the imbalance that is the problem.
Our body uses free radicals as its mercenaries, part of our immune system uses some of the white blood cells called phagocytes to engulf any foreign bodies it finds that should not be there, it seals them off and sends in free radicals to destroy them
All antioxidants aren’t equal
Almost all foods contain antioxidants, but some have much more than others. Our bodies also produce a number of different antioxidants.
When a person has a healthy diet that contains a relatively high proportion on fresh fruit and vegetables, especially dark red, purple or orange varieties then you will be getting adequate amounts of antioxidants, this is the most effective way to ensure good health.
Antioxidants are a vital component of our bodies; they only become a problem when there are many more of them that the body knows how to cope with. This is largely caused by man-made conditions such as pollutants and unnatural compounds introduced into our foods. Antioxidants are able to neutralize many toxins.
Nutrafruit holds a global licence to commercialise a range of fruit varieties developed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Nutrafruit has invested heavily in research, to bring the health benefits of these new superfoods to the world.
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