Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow the damage caused by free radicals to the cells in the body. Basically, these natural or man-made substances either prevent or delay the damage of the cells. Free radicals present in the body increase oxidative stress. Prolonged oxidative stress can damage DNA and other important molecules in the body. Sometimes, antioxidants are even known as “free radical scavengers”.
Functions of Antioxidants
Antioxidants not only protect the body from various diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s but they can also be beneficial in reducing weight. Apart from this, the function of antioxidant can also be in increasing immunity. Our body cells naturally produce some powerful antioxidants, such as alpha lipoid acid and glutathione. However, we can also take antioxidants which naturally or synthetically made.
Types and sources of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are primarily obtained from fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are abundance in vegetables and fruits. In addition to to them, antioxidants are also present in other foods like nuts, whole grains, meat, poultry and fish. There are different types of these antioxidants. Types of antioxidants include –
Lycopene, resveratrol, anthocyanin, sulforaphane, lutein, selenium, zinc, phenolic compounds and carotenoids (like zeaxanthin, etc.). Let’s get into the details of sources of these antioxidants-
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- Lycopene– Lycopene has antioxidant properties, the main sources of which are tomatoes, watermelon and grapes.
- Resveratrol– Resveratrol is antioxidant in nature, which is mainly found in the pink skin of red grapes, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, mulberries and peanuts.
- Anthocyanin– Anthocyanin is quite a popular example of antioxidants found mainly in blue and purple fruits and vegetables, such as berries, eggplant, purple potatoes, carrots and asparagus.
- Sulforaphane– Sulforaphane is a naturally occurring antioxidant compound primarily found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale.
- Polyphenols– Polyphenols are antioxidants that are of two types, flavonoids and phenolic acids. Polyphenols are mainly found in tea (herbal tea), citrus fruits, berries, apples, coffee beans, olives and legumes.
- Glutathione– Glutathione can be said to be the one of the most powerful antioxidant found in foods like onions, garlic, avocados, asparagus and watermelon.
- Carotenoids– Lutein and zeaxanthin are good examples of carotenoids that contain antioxidant properties. Lutein and zeaxanthin are mainly found in green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamins– According to research, there are also some vitamins that can work like antioxidants, including beta–carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
- Minerals– Copper, zinc and selenium are minerals that have antioxidant-like properties. The main sources of copper include beef liver, shellfish, seeds and nuts. Major sources of zinc include oysters and red meat. High amounts of selenium are mainly found in fish, eggs, cheese, brown rice, sunflower oil, mushrooms.
Uses of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are very beneficial for our health. They can protect us against serious diseases like diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Apart from this, antioxidants can sometimes be beneficial for people suffering from obesity. The benefits of antioxidants are explained in detail below.
Helpful in Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease in which the body does not use insulin the way it should. Experts suggest that imbalanced amounts of antioxidants in the body may cause type 2 diabetes. A study that was published in 2016, by the NCBI found that people who consumed more antioxidants (like vitamin E and carotenoids) had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who did not follow their diet.
As per the study of NCBI, antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body. The study also divulged that antioxidants help in combating oxidative stress. They neutralise excess free radicals to protect cells, prevent disease, and reduce inflammation. In this context, antioxidants can help reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
Brings down Obesity
Obesity is not just being overweight but it also brings along many serious diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure. study, antioxidants can prove to be very effective in reducing obesity.
The NCBI study shows that people who take the right amount of antioxidants in their diet have better digestion than those who do not take antioxidants. In addition, people taking antioxidants also saw improvements in obesity and excess weight.
Prevention of Cancer
Antioxidant substances can also help fight diseases like cancer. According to a study by NCBI, oxidative stress is caused by free radicals. This oxidative stress can increase the risk of cancer. In such a situation, by reducing oxidative stress with the help of antioxidants, serious diseases like cancer can be avoided.
Assists in Weight Loss
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Due to hectic and inconsistent lifestyle, obesity is becoming one of the most common and major problem in today’s time. Young generation of today is turning into a victim of obesity from quite an early age. Due to which they face many serious problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.
There are multiple ways of loosing weight today. But not every method fits all. However, in many studies, antioxidants have been found to be a potential remedy for weight loss, better than other alternatives.
Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that have anti obesogenic properties that naturally help in burning calories and reducing weight. Antioxidants also increase the metabolic rate, thereby improving digestion.
Sources of Antioxidants
Some studies suggest that if antioxidant foods are included in your diet, they can help you a lot in reducing your weight. We have listed some such antioxidant rich foods below which can prove to be very effective for your weight loss in a natural and healthy way. These antioxidant-rich foods include –
- The low amount of calories and carbohydrates in legumes, and the high amount of antioxidants, can help you lose weight. Beans contain antioxidants like polyphenols that have anti obesogenic properties. Therefore, you must make legumes as a part of your diet.
- Kidney beans (rajma) and black beans are also good examples of legumes that are again a good source of antioxidants.
- Strawberries, blueberries, pomegranates, figs and red grapes are fruits that contain high amounts of antioxidants. If these fruits are eaten regularly then they can help you in reducing weight.
- Antioxidants like resveratrol, polyphenols and flavonoids are present are majorly found in peanuts, cranberries, chocolates, pistachios and grapes, thus, you can include them in your diet and eat them whenever you feel hungry. Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat whole fruits so that you can intake more fibers.
- Vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, red cabbage and beets are high in antioxidants and fiber.
- Antioxidants called carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) are present in green vegetables. Apart from this, due to the low amount of calories and carbohydrates in these green vegetables, they do not allow extra body weight to increase. Therefore, if you take these vegetables in your diet, then it can be of great help in reducing weight.