Antioxidants: a complete cure-all

By Zhang Dongya (Beijing Today)
Updated: 2008-03-12 10:17

You may know your skin needs antioxidants and spend too much money on expensive antioxidant cosmetics. However, your body is also in danger of oxidation and needs special care. The first Forum on Antioxidants and Wellness was held in Beijing last Sunday. Numerous nutritionists from home and aboard agreed that oxidation is the very source of many kinds of diseases and the best way to prevent disease is to eat antioxidant-rich food.

**Oxidation can be dangerous

The process of oxidation in the human body damages cell membranes and other structures including cellular proteins, lipids and DNA. When oxygen is metabolized, it creates free radicals which steal electrons from other molecules, resulting in damage.

Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that attack, infiltrate and injure vital cell structures. They are constantly formed as a natural by-product of body chemistry. Free radicals are highly toxic and can damage important cellular molecules such as DNA, lipids or other parts of the cell, impairing the brain and other tissue. They are believed to accelerate the progression of age-related conditions and other diseases.

The body can cope with some free radicals and needs them to function effectively. However, an overload of them has been linked to certain diseases, including heart disease, liver disease and some cancers. Oxidation can be accelerated by stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol, sunlight, pollution and other factors.

**Antioxidant tips

Antioxidants are found in certain foods that neutralize free radicals. These include the nutrient antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium.

Other dietary food compounds, such as the photochemicals in plants and zoochemicals from animal products, are believed to have greater antioxidant effects than either vitamins or minerals. These are called the non-nutrient antioxidants and include photochemicals such as lycopenes in tomatoes, and anthocyanins found in cranberries.

Generally, the deeper and richer the color of fruits and vegetables is, the higher the quantity of antioxidants.

However, the color rule of thumb does not apply to varieties of tea. The darker the variety of tea is, the lower its antioxidant concentration, because it has been oxidized.

Fruit juice contains antioxidants, but not as much as the fruits from which they are made, since the antioxidants are concentrated in the skins and pulps.

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