Free radicals are the worst enemies of our body. To stabilize themselves, these compounds with unpaired electrons tend to oxidize molecules that come on its way. The carbohydrate, protein, fat and even the DNA are oxidized in the process.
As the free radicals oxidize these molecules, more free radicals are created in the process, triggering a destructive chain of reaction. A large number of illnesses are associated with the destructive activities of the free radicals. Oxidative stress increases the risk of heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, premature aging and cancer.
To make matters worse, we cannot prevent formation of free radicals in our body. These molecules are an inevitable part of living. They are largely the byproducts of respiration. According to scientists, at least one percent of oxygen that we inhale is converted into free radicals or reactive oxygen species.
The free radical production in the body increases with exposure to air pollution, tobacco smoke, ozone, x-rays and infections. Even intense physical activity could trigger free radical activities.
Although we could not prevent free radical production in the body, we can prevent the destructive oxidation activity of the free radicals. Nature has given as the weapon to combat oxidative stress in the form of antioxidants. The most powerful antioxidants are vitamin E, vitamin C, carotenoids and polyphenols.
Touted to be the most powerful antioxidant found in nature, vitamin E is found in a large number of foods and beverages. An average healthy adult needs about 15mg of vitamin E daily. Easily available sources of vitamin E include fortified cereals, wheat germ, roasted sunflower seeds, nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and peanuts, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, peanut butter, tomatoes, turnip greens and avocado.
Vitamin C could not only prevent oxidative stress, but it is also needed for the absorption of vitamin E. Adult men and women need 90 and 75mg of vitamin C everyday. The best sources of vitamin C foods include orange, guava, red and green sweet peppers, kiwi, grapefruit, strawberries and cantaloupe.
Carotenoid and polyphenol
Carotenoids and polyphenols are two classes of plant chemicals. They are found in green, purple, red, yellow and orange colored vegetables and fruits.