Oxidants are the byproducts of the many biological processes that occur within our bodies on a daily basis. Free radicals are a type of oxidant. Free radicals are created from toxins in our environment like cleaning products, pesticides, radiation, heavy metals in our water supply and tobacco smoke. These toxins, some of which are carcinogens, enter into our bodies by mouth and skin and form free radicals. They are termed free radicals because they are molecules that are capable of existing on their own yet will attack other healthy cells in the body. It is believed that signs and symptoms of aging are in fact the breakdown of these attacked cells. Oxidants can also be produced as a result of stress, poor diet, and chronic illness.
The term oxidative stress is used when we have a high quantity of these oxidants in our bodies. In order to combat this condition, nature has provided us with the perfect superhero: antioxidants. Antioxidants are amazing chemical compounds that have the unique ability of being able to attach themselves to harmful oxidants and neutralize them. So when the body is in a state of oxidative stress, we can prevent cell damage (thereby warding off illness, disease, and accelerated aging) by consuming foods that contain potent antioxidant compounds.
Becoming Your Own Nutritionist
Below is a list of the most common and most accessible antioxidants and their food sources.
|Antioxidant||Function||Signs of Deficiency||Food Sources|
|Vitamin A||helps to protect against infection and will help strengthen your immune system||acne, dry skin, poor vision, dandruff, and frequent colds||found in beef liver, carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, mangos, tomatoes, broccoli and tangerines|
|Vitamin C||a water soluble nutrient that is great at neutralizing free radicals||bleeding or tender gums, easy bruising, slow wound healing, red pimples on the skin, frequent colds and infections||found in bell peppers, tomato, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons, kiwi, oranges, grapefruits, and limes|
|Vitamin E||A fat soluble vitamin that helps the body to use oxygen, form red blood cells, and neutralizes free radicals in the body||easy bruising, slow wound healing, lack of sex drive, infertility, varicose veins||found in wheat germ oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tuna, salmon and sweet potatoes|
|CoenzymeQ10||fat soluble antioxidant made in the body; critical for good heart health, maintaining energy and blood pressure||poor immune function, and heart disease||found in organ meats, sardines, mackerel, soybean oil, spinach, and peanuts|
|Selenium||this mineral’s antioxidant properties help to protect against free radicals and carcinogens; supports the immune system, and is vital to a healthy male reproductive system||signs of premature aging, cataracts, high blood pressure, frequent infections, family history of cancer||found in tuna, oysters, cottage cheese, cabbage, beef liver, and cod|
|Carotenoid||natural pigment in fruits and veggies that help to protect against heart disease and helps to lower the risk of certain types of cancer such as prostate and breast cancer||found in brightly colored red, green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables|
|Bioflavonoid||natural pigment in fruits and veggies that acts as a powerful antioxidant; also known for anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-allergen properties|
|Easy bruising, varicose veins, frequent sprains||found in fruits and veggies that are blue, purple, and deep red in color|
*also found in dark chocolate