Free radicals: what exactly are they? How do antioxidant nutrients found in fruits and vegetables help protect us from their damage?
Without going into a physiology lesson, it’s the radicals, man! The most common pathway for aging, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases are from cellular damage. The damage comes when they react with DNA or the cell membrane. Vital cells can become impaired or die off. This is why your body has a defense system of antioxidants!
Antioxidants are molecules that can stop the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Principle nutrients, also called micronutrients, are not manufactured by the body but must be supplied in the diet.
- Vitamin E, which you can obtain from servings of nuts, wheat germ, apricots, vegetable and fish oils, and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin C, which always makes you think of orange juice, is also found in abundance in kale, broccoli, cantaloupe, green peppers, and strawberries.
- Beta-carotene, which is easily obtained in spinach, eggs, carrots, yams, tomatoes, peaches, and grains.
Recently, studies have shown pomegranates to have superior antioxidant power and shows promising results for prostate and cardiovascular health. However, it is interesting to note that while low concentrations found in the body work for you as an antioxidant, higher doses can cause the opposite effect and have the potential to be harmful.
How can you insure you are getting proper amounts of these powerhouse nutrients and not overdosing? Following the recommended daily allowances set by the FDA, getting your five servings of fruits or vegetables, allowing yourself stress-relieving body-balancing exercise daily, and not overdoing the supplements seem to be the safest way to keep healthy and stay healthy!
There is a guide to daily allowances from the National Agricultural Library that is helpful in determining what may be missing from your diet, without overdoing it!
Now, more than ever, we need to know what our food contains, what our bodies need, and how to supplement when necessary. Taking some time to plan out and balance your diet is a fun challenge the whole family can be involved in! Check out this website  with your child for fun and simple ways to teach good nutrition habits now!