The above query is the first thought that comes to most people’s mind when they hear the words ‘antioxidant supplements’. To come to a conclusion about the usability of antioxidant supplements, you need to first know what antioxidants are and why they are required. To do so, you need to understand how the byproducts of oxidation, i.e. free radicals, affect us.
Read on to know the effect free radicals can have on our health, why antioxidants are important, about the natural sources of antioxidants, and whether an antioxidant supplement pill a day is useful.
Damaging effects of free radicals
Before we begin, let’s understand what oxidation is. It is a chemical process involving the consumption of oxygen. In context of our body, many metabolic processes use oxygen, which is perfectly normal, but the oxidation process also leads to the release of free radicals. Free radicals, in turn, can damage cells and cause disease. In fact, free radicals are listed as a major contributing factor for approximately 60 different health problems, including cancer, atherosclerosis, and aging.
Benefits of antioxidants
By definition, antioxidants are those substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging effects of oxidation. What this means is that antioxidants eradicate free radicals before they can inflict any sort of damage.
Antioxidants provide numerous health benefits, such as a stronger immune system, protection of the central nervous system, protection against cancer, heart attacks, and strokes, and prevention of eye-related diseases. In addition to the above mentioned benefits, antioxidants also slow aging.
To a certain extent, our body is capable of fighting the menace of free radicals on its own. Our body produces several antioxidant enzymes, such as catalase, glutathione peroxide, and superoxide dismutase. Healthy production of these enzymes is instrumental in keeping the growth of free radicals in check.
Natural Sources of Antioxidants
In addition to antioxidant enzymes, our body also derives antioxidants from the food we eat. Many minerals and vitamins, such as coenzyme Q10, Lutein, beta-carotene, lycopene, cysteine, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B2 act as natural antioxidants.
The best sources of antioxidants are fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to these two, other good sources of antioxidants include nuts, grains, poultry and fish, and some red meats.
Vegetables that are rich sources of antioxidants include all green vegetables, sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli. Fruits that are rich in antioxidants include mangoes, guava, papaya, watermelon, apricots, tomatoes, and pink grapefruit.
Antioxidants supplements – What’s the need?
With so many food sources that offer valuable antioxidants being available, it seems like there is no need for antioxidant supplements. However, antioxidants are most beneficial when you assimilate them from a variety of sources. In other words, you need to include a variety of food products mentioned above in your daily diet. The fact that many of us do not have access to nutritious food everyday makes antioxidant supplements a necessity.
The bottom line is that if your diet does not include a large amount of the above mentioned food sources, then you must consider supplementing your diet with an antioxidant supplement.