What Are Antioxidants?

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Antioxidants are nutrients in our foods or plants that can help to prevent or slow down oxidative damage to our body. There are 2 types of antioxidants which are beneficial to our body:

  1. Essential nutrients
  2. Non essential nutrients.

Antioxidants' Essential Nutrients

Antioxidants fruit

The essential nutrients are commonly edible and can be found from our daily fruit and vegetables. Essential nutrients are necessity to support our daily functioning of our body. They cannot be produced by our body and must be obtained from the dietary source. Some common examples are vitamins C and E. Examples of essential antioxidants are as follows:

  • Vitamin C: Most of the vitamin C in the diet (90%) comes from fruits and vegetables. However, since vitamin C is water soluble, cooking can destroy the vitamin C in a food.
  • Vitamin E: Also known as alpha tocopherol, is a fat. Because vitamin E is found in oils, people who follow a low-fat diet may not get enough. Food sources: Peanut butter, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and margarine, wheat germ, avocado, whole grains, salad dressings.
  • Carotenoids: Beta-carotene is a member of the carotenoid family. Typical foods are fruits and vegetables that are red, yellow, green, and orange colors, with carrots being a major contributor of beta-carotene. Typically, beta-carotene is a conditionally essential nutrient, but when one's intake of vitamin A is low, beta-carotene becomes an essential nutrient.
  • Selenium: Selenium is an essential trace mineral (trace minerals are needed only in small amounts). The amount of selenium found in food is directly related to the amount of selenium in the soil in which the food was grown. It is necessary for healthy immune function. Examples: Garlic, seeds, Brazil nuts, meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, whole grains.

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Antioxidants' Non-Essential Nutrients

phytonutrient fruits

The non-essential nutrients are commonly found in plant and wood that have disease preventive properties. They are known as Phytochemicals (or phytonutrients). They are not required by human body to sustain life. Phytochemicals are generally found in the fruit and vegetables that are bright in color like blue, purple, yellow, orange, red. Some examples are cranberries, blueberries and mangosteen. There are some phytochemicals found in wood and moss but are not edible.

While phytochemicals are not essential nutrients, it helps to lower the risk of various cancer and disease, slow down the aging process by working together with the nutrients in fruit and vegetables. Studies show that elderly men who took dark green and deep yellow vegetable had about a 46% decrease in risk of heart disease. Lycopene from tomatoes is in clinical trials for cardiovascular diseases and prostate cancer. Berries help to prevent and even reverse serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stomach ulcers.

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What are Antioxidants - The History that You May Not Know

  • Antioxidants were first introduced for industrial purposes in prevention of oxygen consumption, e.g prevent the corrosion of metal. Some nutrition researchers used antioxidants to prevent oxidation of unsaturated fat for the food.
  • Till the late 30s, research on vitamins E led to the current understanding of antioxidants to protect human cells from damaged.

  • During the 1980s, many laboratories started to identify phytochemicals in plants that might be used as medicines. Many of these discovered phytochemicals seem to fight diseases such as cancer, heart attack and stroke.
  • From year 2000 onward, there are many more discoveries of phytochemicals in the fruits and vegetables which has high antioxidants substances. These phytochemicals (or also known as phytonutrients) are an emerging area of health and nutrition.

What are antioxidatnts
  • In April 25, 1994, Newsweek introduced a new term to the world called Phytochemicals. From year 2000 onward, there are many more discoveries of phytochemicals in the fruits and vegetables which has high antioxidants substances. These phytochemicals (or also known as phytonutrients) are an emerging area of health and nutrition.

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