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Antioxidants - Uses, Benefits, Sources

Antioxidants seem to be everywhere; in superfoods and skincare, even chocolate and red wine. Products that contain antioxidants are marketed as essential for good health, with promises to fight disease and reverse ageing.

Antioxidants can fight against free radical damage, which helps us to stay healthy and live longer. As a result, many people are taking antioxidant supplements as part oftheir diet. However, despite their many health benefits, scientific studies have proven that artificial supplements aren’t necessarily the answer. So, below we will look at what’s good and bad about antioxidant supplements and whether they’re needed.

Health Benefits Of Antioxidants

Antioxidants can protect against the cell damage that free radicals cause, known as oxidative stress.

Activities and processes that can lead to oxidative stress include:

  •  Excessive exercise
  •  Mitochondrial activity
  •  Ischemia and reperfusion damage
  •  Tissue trauma, due to inflammation and injury
  •  Consumption of certain foods, especially refined and processed foods, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and certain dyes and additives
  •  Environmental pollution
  •  Smoking
  •  Radiation
  •  Exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and drugs, including chemotherapy
  •  Industrial solvents
  •  Ozone

Food Sources Of Antioxidants

The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants are often referred to as a "superfood" or "functional food."

To obtain some specific antioxidants, try to include the following in your diet:

  •  Vitamin A: Dairy produce, eggs, and liver
  •  Vitamin C: Most fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, berries, raw cabbage and broccoli.
  •  Vitamin E: Wholegrains, nuts, fish oil, and green leafy veggies.
  •  Beta-carotene: Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, peas, spinach, and mangoes
  •  Lycopene: Pink and red fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and watermelon
  •  Lutein: Green, leafy vegetables, corn, papaya, and oranges
  •  Selenium: Rice, corn, wheat, and other whole grains, as well as nuts, eggs, cheese, and legumes

Other foods that are believed to be good sources of antioxidants include:

  •  Eggplants
  •  Legumes such as black beans or kidney beans
  •  Green and black teas
  •  Red grapes
  •  Dark chocolate
  •  Pomegranates
  •  Goji berries

Antioxidant Deficiency

Symptoms of antioxidant deficiency include:

  •  Poor memory
  •  Fatigue
  •  Impaired wound healing
  •  Skin and hair changes

High-risk groups include:

  •  Older people, as the body makes fewer of its own antioxidants as it ages
  •  People who drink too much alcohol and are exposed to tobacco smoke
  •  People who have digestive problems
  •  Or those who cannot absorb antioxidants properly

Side Effects Of High Intake Of Amino Acids

Some of the sources of antioxidants can be toxic if taken in high amounts. Taking too many supplements as well as eating food rich in antioxidants cause most cases of antioxidant toxicity.

Taking too much vitamin A, for example, can lead to vitamin A toxicity, which can result in birth defects, liver abnormalities, osteoporosis or central nervous system disorders. Large doses of vitamin C may cause side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach cramps.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

Useful Tips:

The following tips could help increase your antioxidant intake:

  •  Include a fruit or a vegetable every time you eat, meals and snacks included.
  •  Have a cup of green or matcha tea every day.
  •  Look at the colors on your plate. If your food is mostly brown or beige, the antioxidant levels are likely to be low. Add in foods with rich colors, such as kale, beets, and berries.
  •  Use turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, clove, and cinnamon to spice up the flavor and antioxidant content of your meals.
  •  Snack on nuts, seeds, especially Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit, but choose those with no added sugar or salt.