Antioxidants began to get public attention during the 1990s. Scientists began to study the damaging effects of free radical had in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis and can contribute to cancer, vision loss, and a lot of other chronic conditions.
Studies showed if you had low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, you were at greater risk of developing these chronic conditions than if you ate lots of these fruits and vegetables.
Before the results of the studies were done, the media, supplement companies and food industries started to hype the benefits of “antioxidants.” All kinds of foods were labeled as being rich in antioxidants began showing up on shelves in stores.
The media, supplement companies, and food industries started to educate or miseducation the public about the disease-fighting properties of all sorts of antioxidants.
Vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C and selenium are the vitamins and minerals given the name of antioxidants. These vitamins and minerals help to fight off free radicals that can cause aging, lower our immune system and cause cells to mutate.
Free radicals are oxygen molecules that can damage the body’s cells when they are in an unstable form. The molecules become unstable by losing an electron. They stabilize by taking an electron from another molecule. By doing this they can destroy a cell or cause it to mutate. The destruction or mutation of cells can cause numerous diseases from cataracts, various cancers, and heart problems. Antioxidants neutralize the effect of the free radical by giving up an electron.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin composed of a group of compounds called tocopherols. There are several forms of tocopherols that occur naturally in nature. These forms include alpha, beta, delta, epsilon eta, gamma, and zeta. Alpha-tocopherol is the most potent form of vitamin E and has the greatest nutritional and biological value. Tocopherols occur in cold pressed vegetable oils, all whole raw seeds and nuts, and soybeans. Vitamin E was first obtained from wheat germ oil.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant because it opposes oxidation of substances in the body. Vitamin E prevents saturated fatty acids and vitamin A from breaking down and combining with other substances that may become harmful to the body. The vitamin B complex and vitamin C when in the presence of vitamin E also act as an antioxidant. Fats and oils containing vitamin E are less prone to spoil.
Vitamin E with oxygen can prevent toxic peroxides. This will help keep red blood cells supplied with pure oxygen, which helps to make the heart and other organs function more efficiently. Vitamin E also helps to nourish cells, strengthen the capillary walls and protect the red blood cells from destruction by poisons in the blood.
The B complex vitamins are water soluble and are classified as antioxidants. These vitamins help to provide the body with energy by converting carbohydrates into glucose, which the body burns to produce energy. They are also important in the metabolism of fats and proteins.
The B complex vitamins are necessary for the nervous system to function properly. These are important for the maintenance of muscle tone in the digestive system and for the health of your skin, hair, eyes, mouth and liver.
The B-complex vitamins can be found brewer’s yeast, whole-grain cereals, meats, vegetables, milk, rice, nuts, and seeds. The B complex is also produced in the body by intestinal bacteria. These bacteria grow best on milk sugar and small amounts of fat in your diet.
A milk-free diet or taking sulfur drugs and other antibiotics can destroy these good bacteria. Because the B complex vitamins are water soluble they are not stored and any excess is excreted. Sulfa drugs, sleeping pills, sugar, alcohol, insecticides, and estrogen can destroy the B vitamin complex. The vitamin B complex can also be lost through perspiration.
Your need for vitamin B complex increases if you’re under stress and when you’re sick. Alcoholics, heavy coffee drinkers, children and pregnant women need extra vitamin B complex.
Most American diets don’t contain enough vitamin B complex. Depression, fatigue, nervousness, irritability, constipation, anemia, insomnia and even suicidal tendencies can result from vitamin B complex deficiency.
Vitamin C is also classified as an anti-oxidant. It is a water-soluble vitamin that is also known as ascorbic acid. One of the main functions of vitamin C is maintaining collagen, which is a protein necessary for the formation of connective tissue of your skin, ligaments, and bones. Vitamin C also plays a big role in healing wounds and burns, forming red blood cells, preventing, hemorrhaging, fighting bacterial infections and helps to reduce ill effects of allergy producing substances.
Vitamin C is needed to help metabolize several other vitamins. The vitamin is found in most fresh fruit and vegetables. Most vitamin C supplements are prepared from rose hips, Acerola cherries, green peppers and citrus fruits.
Humans, apes and guinea pigs are the only animals that need to ingest vitamin C because their bodies can’t synthesize it. The body’s ability to absorb vitamin C is reduced if you smoke, are under stress, have a high fever, are taking antibiotics, using cortisone, inhaling DDT, inhaling petroleum products (gasoline), ingesting aspirin or taking pain killers.
Selenium is another antioxidant that helps to preserve the elasticity of your body’s skin and connective tissue by delaying the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids that can cause the protein in your tissue to turn solid. A common example of this is sore joints and tendinitis. Selenium is found in the bran and germ of whole grain cereals and vegetables, such as broccoli, onions and tomatoes and tuna.
According to the Archives of Environmental Health, September/October 1976 there is a relationship between the incidence of cancer and the amount of selenium in the soil. In areas where crops are grown with a high level of selenium, there was a lower incidence in the number of cancer cases.
To get in all the antioxidants, you need daily follow these guidelines.
Protein — 2 servings
Vegetable — 4 to 6 servings
Fruit — 3 to 6 servings
Grain — 6 to 11 servings
Dairy Products — 2 servings
If you can’t get in the minimum amounts of your required food, it is recommended that you use a supplement. It’s recommended that you take a multivitamin, vitamin C, a vitamin B complex, vitamin E, and selenium.
How much do you need?
Vitamin A 4,000 IU or 800 RE for women, 5,000 IU or 1,000 RE for men
Vitamin B label should say complete Vitamin B
Vitamin C 1,000 milligrams daily for women and 1,500 milligrams daily for men
Vitamin E 400 IU daily for 22 to 50 and 60 IU for over 50
Selenium 50 to 100 micrograms
Remember too many supplements have been linked to health risks in some cases. A high dose of beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. A high dose of vitamin E can increase risks of prostate cancer and one type of stroke. Antioxidant supplements can interact with your medications. To help minimize your risk, talk to your health care providers about any supplements you use.
Our bodies are not defenseless against free radicals. Your body is used to the relentless attacks of free radicals. Our bodies make lots of molecules that fight free radicals. This means that no single substance can do all the work.
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