Importance of Antioxidants

admin / July 16th, 2010/ Posted in Medications / No Comments »

Oxidation affects every cell in our body. It is a chemical reaction between oxygen and living tissue in which the atoms in a cell lose electrons – think of it as similar to metal corrosion. Everything that we eat or drink, the polluted, chemical filled, air that we breathe and even physical exercise creates oxidation.

As a result, unstable atoms with missing electrons are created – these are called free radicals. These free radicals interfere with and destroy our healthy cells: a process that leads to faster ageing and diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s and even schizophrenia.

To stop the oxidation damage, our cells must become balanced again. This is the purpose of the antioxidant. Antioxidants are friendly particles which are effective because they give up their own electrons to the free radicals. When a free radical gains the electron from an antioxidant it no longer needs to attack the cell and the chain reaction of oxidation is broken. After donating an electron, an antioxidant does not become harmful itself because it has a special ability to lose an electron without becoming reactive. Our body has its own antioxidant defence system; however there are far more free radicals that attack us today than our body is able to fight on its own.

What are the Health Benefits of Antioxidants? Slowing down the effects of ageing, improved brain activity and memory, lower risk of diseases that have oxidative stress at a cause – heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, increased metabolism, stable nervous system, increased glucose tolerance and others.

How are antioxidants measured? One common measure is ORAC units. The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) test is the standardized method used by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for testing food’s and supplement’s anti-oxidant capacities. It allocates scores for the ability to neutralize free radicals and create balanced healthy cells. The basic understanding of the ORAC test is that the higher the ORAC score of a food or supplement, the higher the antioxidant level.

How many antioxidants do I need a day? The daily recommended antioxidant dose is 5000 ORAC units. Sadly, in reality 80% of our population is consuming less than 1,000 ORAC units a day. This is seriously concerning!

Even if you have your “5 a day” of fruit and veg, you may only consume an ORAC content of about 1,750 units a day on average instead of the necessary 5,000. Nowhere close to start slowing down your body’s degeneration.

Which foods are rich in antioxidants? USDA study conducted at Tufts University showed that Acai berry in its freeze-dried form had the highest amount of antioxidants out of all fruit and vegetables – the ORAC value of 102,700. Maqui berry in its dry form also took a high position in the list – 75,000 ORAC units. It was followed by goji berry, cranberries blueberries, raspberries, mangosteen, pomegranate and artichokes.

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