Antioxidants

What do you really know about antioxidants? They’re good for us? They prevent disease?

Sure, but how about really getting to know more about it. There is a huge amount of scientific data available on the subject, so I have tried to find a handful of well-written articles on the subject, and specifically how it relates to Michelle’s Cleanse that Cures.

The Cleanse That Cures  ::  Antioxidant Smoothie

A good place to begin your understanding of Antioxidants is with Free Radicals. I have found a particularly easy to understand, peer-reviewed article which offers a great introduction to the topic. If this topic is of interest to you, there are lots of great further reading suggestions at the bottom of this blog.

“It is a paradox that oxygen, which is considered as essential for life, is also reported to be toxic. Its toxicity is because of the process that unleashes the free radicals. The term free radical seems to appear a lot lately in everything, from vitamin brochures to cosmetic advertisements. Free radicals are unstable highly reactive and energized molecules having unpaired electrons.

Generally free radicals attack the nearest stable molecules, ‘stealing’ its electrons. When the molecule that has been attacked and loses its electron it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, initiating lipid peroxidation which results in destabilization and disintegration of the cell membranes or oxidation of other cellular components like proteins and DNA, finally resulting in the disruption of cells. Oxidation caused by free radicals sets reduced capabilities to combat ageing and serious illness, including cancer, kidney damage, atheroscelrosis and heart diseases.

Some free radicals arise normally during metabolism. Sometimes the body’s immune system’s cells purposefully create them to neutralize viruses and bacteria. However environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides can also generate free radicals. Thus free radicals on one hand can produce beneficial effects but can also induce harmful oxidation and cause serious cellular damages, if generated in excess.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron-stealing reaction. The antioxidants do not themselves become free radicals by donating electrons because they are stable in either form. These act as scavengers and play the housekeeper’s role by mopping up free radicals before they get a chance to create havoc in a body. Thus they may well be defined as the substances that are capable of quenching or stabilizing free radicals. Antioxidants have also been suggested to have a well defined role as preservatives. These have been defined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as substances used to preserve food by retarding deterioration, rancidity or discoloration caused by oxidation.”

From Charanjit Kaur and Harish C. Kapoor. Antioxidants in Fruits and Vegetables – The Millennium’s Health. International Journal of Food Science and Technology. July 7, 2008.

For further information and reading, check out some of these articles:

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