Antioxidant essentials

As mentioned on the previous page oxidant and free radical behaviour both within the cellular system and outside of their perimeter walls throughout our bodies represent the biggest threat to impending degenerative diseases and premature aging. As such the now extensive research that has been undertaken on this topic clearly demonstrates that antioxidants are indeed the key to a revolution in dietary science. However Without delving unnecessarily into the intricacies of the workings of antioxidants and indeed the whole subject of I've compiled a shortlist of essentials that will hopefully provide some workable and practical information for everyday use.

The key points to mention are:

Members of the antoxidant family

Vitamin C (ascorbic Acid) [water soluble] - undoubtedly the `most famous' vitamin within the antioxidant family. Of all the mammal species humans are the only ones incapable of synthesizing it's production internally. Fortunately though it is a common vitamin and is found in many fruits (especially the citrus variety) and vegetables. Also it works more efficiently in conjunction with vitamin E. Daily adult dosages should be around 250 - 500 mg. Any more is rendered as waste and passed out through the system in the urine.

Major food sources -

Vegetables: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, capsicum (peppers), cauliflower, kale, potatoes, spinach, watercress and tomatoes.

Fruit: blackcurrant's, kiwifruit, oranges, strawberries and other citrus fruits.

Other: fruit juices and herbs.

Vitamin E [fat soluable] - Being a fat soluble the constituents of vitamin E are readily attracted to the lipid membrane of the cell as well as lipoproteins. As mentioned before this group works well with vitamin C. Typical daily adult dosage should be around 22 - 28 IU (International Units).

Major food sources -

Vegetables: Peas and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli.

Fruits: Kiwifruit, avocado.

Other: whole grains, soy beans, wheat germ, nuts, seeds and cold pressed vegetable oils.

Lycopene - Insoluble in water this is a red coloured carotenoid (organic pigments that are naturally occurring in chromoplasts of plants) and phytochemical. Of all the carotenoids variants(of which over 600 have now been identified) lycopene is the most potent as an antioxidant which can be readily found in tomatoes and other red fruits. Daily adult dosage should be around 15 mg.

Major food sources -

Vegetables: Red pepper, red cabbage, red potatoes.

Fruit: Tomatoes,guava, rose hip, watermelon and pink grapefruit, rhubarb and watermelon.

[Important note] - Lycopene in foods containing cooked tomatoes, such as spaghetti sauce, and a small amount of fat are absorbed better than lycopene from raw tomatoes.

Lutein and zeaxanthin - Both of these these xanthophylls (yellow coloured carotenoids) are insoluble in water and stored locally in the eye retina where they act as important inhibitors and prevention agents against blindness, cataracts and age related macular degeneration.

Major food sources -

Vegetables: kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, corn, garden peas and brussel sprouts.

Other: Eggs and other dairy products.

Flavonoids and phenolics - Are both a diverse complex organic molecules produced by plants for protection purposes against insects, disease and strong sunlight, plus they influence the the quality of plants by contributing to colour, flavour and aroma; and are categorised, according to chemical structure, into flavonols, flavones, flavanones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins and chalcones (over 4,000 Flavonoids have been identified to date). Many studies have suggested that flavonoids exhibit biological activities, including anti allergenic, antiviral, anti inflammatory, and vasodilating actions.

Major food sources - Vegetables: Ginger root, onions, kale, broccoli, soybeans, potatoes and legumes.

Fruits: Apple skin, cherries, grapes, blackcurrant's and citrus fruits.

Other: tea, red wine, parsley, thyme.

Micro elements - These comprise of Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese and Iron and although they cannot be technically classified as antioxidants however they do form important components of antioxidant enzymes.

Major food sources -

Meats and seafood.
Cereals and grains.

Allium sulphur compounds Allium is part of the onion genus which comprises of about 1250 species. Garlic in particular has a long standing history of therapeutic qualities and has been used for antiseptic, antibacterial, stimulating digestion, reducing high blood pressure, glandular regulator, diuretic and even cancer deterrent purposes.

Major food sources -

Onions, shallots, leeks and herbs such as garlic and chives.

Glucosinolates - are a class of organic compounds containing sulphur and nitrogen which are derived from glucose. These substances are responsible for the bitter and sharp tastes of many food. Developed by plants as a means of defense from herbivores which would otherwise consume them. In sub toxic doses, their hydrolytic and metabolic products act as chemoprotective agents against chemically-induced carcinogens by blocking the initiation of tumors.

Major food sources -

mustard, radish, horseradish, cress, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, turnip, swede and rapeseed.

Co enzyme Q10 - as a strong fat soluble antioxidant it is generated in the body and also derived from food. It has a major crucial role to play within the mitochondrial respiration of living cells where deals with the tranfer of energy. Another property is that it amplifies the efficiency and effect of vitamin E, both of which are crucial to preventing degenerative brain diseases.

Major food sources -

Broccoli, wheat, vegetable oils, beans, rice, spinach and wheat germ.

Glutathione - is a tri-peptide molecule composed of three amino acids and constructed from within the cell and is then required to maintain the normal function of the immune system. Also as an antioxidant it protects the interior of the cell from any possible free radical damage in particular from reactive oxygen.

Major food sources -

Vegetables: Asparagus,broccoli and green leafy vegetables.

Fruit: Asparagus, watermelon.

Lignans - are considered to be phytoestrogens, plant chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen and act as antioxidants. Flaxseed in particular has well beyond the highest concentration of lignans than any plant known. Some studies have reported a positive association between high levels of lignans in the body with reduced risks of prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.

Major food sources -

Vegetables: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, carrots, cucumber and tomato.

Fruits: Apricot, peach, strawberry, kiwifruit, plums, mandarin and oranges.

Other: Flaxseed, sesame seed, cocoa powder and chocolate.

Lipoic acid - Also known as alpha-lipoic acid is a sulphur containing fatty acid is found in every cell of the body. It plays the vital role of helping to generate the energy needed to keep us alive by being part of the metabolic machinery that converts glucose to energy. Unlike Vitamin C which works only in water and vitamin E which works in fat, lipoic acid is unusual in that it will work equally in either. Our bodies also have the ability to self synthesise this particular antioxidant.

Major food sources -

Spinach, broccoli, peas, brussel sprouts, rice and bran.

Our bodies also manufacture a number of small molecules that have antioxidant activity that are non food derived (although their individual components may be); these of which include bilirubin, alpha-keto acids, certain sex hormones, melatonin and uric acid.

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