Introduction It seems like only yesterday (although it's almost 14 years ago) when we wanted to test the effectiveness of chloroform on a classmate of ours in the chem lab. Well, what do you know? It worked just like our chemistry teacher had explained while also telling us that it's something that shouldn't be inhaled. And of course, once we were done with it, the chemistry teacher found it fitting to reprimand us for what we had done while the unwilling recipient slept blissfully in the debriefing area of the lab for almost three hours.
This was all I could think of when reminded of the redox (short form for reduction and oxidation) process that is taught in a high school chemistry class.
Oxidation, if the hint dropped didn't make it obvious enough, occurs freely in nature. [Read: Everywhere] Of course, this isn't my cleverly crafted segway into a chemistry lesson but actually to give you the larger picture when it comes to antioxidants. What I mean is that if you want to understand what antioxidants are, one must first understand the process of oxidation.
So, just as my chemistry teacher would say (with an accent that would leave us in splits every time)… Very simply, oxidation is the process where oxygen is added to the substance's chemical composition.
And by now, you should have figured out that antioxidants (thanks to the overuse of the prefix anti-) prevent oxidation from taking place. But there's more than meets the eye…
What are Anti-oxidants? As mentioned above, oxidation occurs in nature and in our body too. There are several ways by which unhealthy oxidation occurs in the body either by eating or being exposed to environmental hazards such as radiation or smoke. Much like the oxidation process that you studied in high school chemistry, free radicals are formed (thanks to the redox process) and can be harmful in causing diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, rheumathoid arthritis, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease and cancer as well.
Since it is the free radical that causes diseases, that is where antioxidants in the form of nutrients play a large role in eliminating chances of contracting disease.
So, let's look at the sources of antioxidants that will help us in preventing 'unhealthy oxidation' in the body.
Sources of Antioxidants Antioxidant substances contain nutrients such as beta-carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
So in an effort to give you serious choice, here is an exhaustive list that has been compiled for your convenience: Carrots, squash, broccoli, kale, kiwi, brussels, sprout, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots, soy, oranges, purple grapes, cranberries, pomegranates, oatmeal, barley, rye, lime, garlic, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, tomatoes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetable oil, liver oil, fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, tea and red wine.
Actually, a healthy plan of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts will suffice in eliminating free radicals from our body, thus helping us to maintain good health.
In Closing In looking at this list, one can see that the choices are numerous and perhaps is already decent part of your diet. For those who aren't so health-conscious, you have a wide range of foods to pick from in order to take the first step towards a healthier diet.