Is a diet high in antioxidants important? Antioxidants Explained.
Do you remember the game – Pacman? That little yellow dot on a screen that had a mouth and liked to eat things? How it would just float around through a maze looking for its next meal? This is very similar to what we call a free radical fR.
A free radical (fR) is a highly charged atom or ion i.e. oxygen (O2) that is extremely unstable. This little molecule really doesn’t like being alone. A fR, described in the media, is not a good thing, except our bodies produce them for a variety of reasons.
Without fR’s there are functions in our bodies that would not run well as fRs are also responsible for helping rid the body of such unwanted substances i.e. bacteria or some chemical compounds that could do us harm. It has been predicted that fRs contribute to life longevity as long as they are kept in control.
Due to their high reactive nature, fR’s look for ways to become stable. When a fR attaches to a cell, it makes it vulnerable to damage. Imagine a fortress surrounded by a strong protective wall that has one area that wasn’t built as well. That one area now becomes the target for invasion. Our cell membranes operate much the same way.
A two layer ring or lining around the cell, acts to protect the inner engine – cell nucleus – from invaders. This lining is also responsible for letting nutrients in and waste out. If this outer ring is damaged, nutrients won’t get in and waste gets stuck inside. It’s similar to allowing garbage to leak into your car engine, which eventually causes the engine to break down or stop working altogether.
Luckily for us, our body produces fR scavengers referred to as antioxidants, the clean-up crew. Our cleanup crew comes from our immune system. The clean-up crew is responsible for keeping balance with fR’s in our body. Unfortunately modern life styles, stress, environmental pollution and some of the foods we eat contribute to increasing fR’s to more than our body can handle at one time.
This is where the diet becomes crucial to balancing the scales of protection. Three main vitamins and several minerals are mostly responsible for decreasing fR’s. Vitamins A, C, and E along with minerals like selenium and zinc, add to protecting our health. What’s most important is that these vitamins and minerals must be eaten in our diet, and on a regular basis, meaning almost every day.
Many protective vitamins are water soluble, meaning they are not stored in our body which is why we must get them through our diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are the foods have the highest percentage of protection. When you hear the term “antioxidant” you will now have a better understanding of what that means, a compound that travels through our body and looks for fR’s. Once fR’s have been found, antioxidants grab them and help to eliminate them before they have a chance to do any damage.