What is antioxidant good for has a simple answer; every cell and organ in the body.
Oxidative damage to cells causes premature aging of our bodies and virtually the whole gamut of diseases.
Free radicals cause the damage; they have lost an electron so they scavenge them from normal cells in the body, injuring the organs in the process.
Oxidation is the process whereby molecules lose electrons during a reaction, so it is entirely normal and is happening constantly in the body. However if the free radicals thus formed are not immediately neutralised they will damage our cells as they go roaming around the body. The lining of blood vessels is particularly vulnerable; first inflammation, then scarring and finally cholesterol deposition. It's called atherosclerosis.
This is where antioxidants have a role to play; they neutralise these free radicals so that they will not make us old and sick long before our time. Blood will continue to flow freely to the organs.
Three vitamins have powerful antioxidising properties.
Vitamin C and beta-carotene are readily available in many coloured foods; because they are water-soluble an excess is secreted in the urine. We must consume them daily for protection against these scavenging and damaging free radicals.
Vitamin E is another story. The chief source is seeds such as wheat and sunflower but once processed it is usually extracted or neutralised. It is for example almost impossible to find bread in a supermarket that is not made from refined flour; the germ which is where it is stored has been removed.
And researchers have found that once extracted at high temperatures, sunflower oil has almost no vitamin E.
To complicate matters further there are eight different isomers of vitamin E, only two of which have been researched. They have quite different properties and are not found in the same foods; they are alpha and gamma-tocopherol. Little is known about the other six.
Gamma-tocopherol gives specific antioxidant protection to the prostate gland, mopping up free radicals; the alpha form does not have this ability.
To muddy the waters even further in trying to answer the question what is antioxidant good for is that supplements usually have only the alpha-tocopherol form.
If the gamma isomer has to struggle against large amounts of alpha-tocopherol from a capsule it is not well absorbed from the intestine, resulting in an actual increase in malignant prostate tumours.
Whilst small amounts of vitamin E are to be found in olives, avocados and other vegetables, the best sources remain completely unrefined wheat and sunflower seeds; and some nuts.
The alpha-tocopherol isomer of vitamin E, found in large amounts in the oil in completely unrefined wheat flour, also acts as a natural anticoagulant. Renowned cardiologist Dr Wilfred Shute points out that, prior to the processing of the grain, heart attacks were almost unknown.
The antioxidant property of vitamin E also gives protection to the
lining of arteries against atherosclerosis by mopping up free radicals.
Unfortunately high doses of vitamin E in supplements, particularly since it is usually only the alpha-isomer, actually can raise the spectre of disease and bleeding.
Much has been written about vitamin E and you will find confusing and contradictory statements about it. We get ours from unprocessed sunflower seeds and bread made with 100% wholemeal flour that contains all three streams of the grain; the germ, bran and endosperm.
The best sources of vitamin C are well known; citrus and peppers. Once again OJ from a carton has very little; there are no shortcuts alas. We either eat the whole fruit including the pulp, or squeeze it with no strainer, or find ourselves unable to benefit from the protection it gives.
What is antioxidant good for? A multitude of diseases but only when citrus is unrefined and unprocessed. The rule of thumb is eat whole foods.
What is antioxidant good for? The beta-carotene found in many orange and yellow fruits and vegetables such as butternut squash is a powerful bioactive phytochemical that helps mop up free radicals; it is the precursor of vitamin A.
These antioxidant compounds are found in what are today being called functional foods; those that promote wellness and help prevent disease.
Butternut seeds are also a good source of vitamin E.
There are literally millions of phytonutrients in our foods. Some 150 like beta-carotene have been studied in depth but really not much is known about the rest. The structures of another 4000 or so are known, but the part that most play in human wellness is unknown; it is almost certainly profound, but remains unresearched and unproven.
The more a food is processed the greater that the bioactive function is likely to be reduced or completely annulled; but there are exceptions. Lycopenes in tomatoes, for example, have been proved to help in the prevention of prostate disease; it is actually enhanced by cooking.
There are alas no shortcuts when it comes to the protection given by antioxidants. It's clearly impossible to get even a small fraction of them from supplements, and the research is proving that it can be damaging.
The only sensible way forwards is to eat daily as many coloured foods as possible, even in small quantities like a sprig of parsley on scrambled eggs, and to seek out unrefined and minimally-processed grains, fruit and vegetables.
The cry from most people is that they simply don't have the time to squeeze their own OJ and bake bread from wholemeal flour, for example. The alternative is spending a lot more days, weeks and energy consulting doctors and taking medication.
So how long does it actually take to squeeze your own orange juice?
Everywhere you will read the recommendation to eat more whole grains; but they are very difficult to get and truth be told we have often grown to dislike their texture. Commercial bread is one example; it is highly refined, fattening and devoid of these bioactive phytonutrients.
However once you are set up, it takes literally no more than five minutes to mill the wheat and prepare the ingredients for the bread machine. I am not exaggerating; I do it daily. Then you have the best-tasting loaf in the whole world, rich in vitamin E and a very important bioactive phytonutrient called a lignan that is found only in the bran; it gives protection against nasty malignant breast tumours.
It is any coincidence that breast disease has like heart attacks soared since the refining of our flour? The lignans in the bran and the alpha-tocopherol in the germ have been extracted; and sold to the pig farmer. We are fed the highly glycemic flour; inflammation, obesity and type-2 diabetes have become the order of the day.
What is antioxidant good for? The simple answer is everything.
Hummus is another of the simple foods that you can make in just five minutes; it is rich in these bioactive nutrients that promote wellness and help prevent disease.
This authentic hummus recipe is a breeze; it has no preservatives so finish it within a few days.
This nutritious green smoothie can also be made in just five minutes; it is a rich source of many antioxidants. Make it with kefir, a probiotic, for extra benefit.
What is antioxidant good for and how long does it take to prepare them? All these whole foods can be prepared in a short time once you are in the groove.
What is antioxidant good for is a question many folk are asking; this is only the beginning of its benefits. The body of knowledge is being added to daily. Eat more coloured and unrefined foods.
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