11 March 2011
Get Your Facts Right Before Going Gung-ho Over Green tea and Berries. Here are Some Myths About Antioxidants a Correspondent
The use of the term ‘free radicals’ has become as common place as swine flu, without really understanding what it stands for means. All one really knows about antioxidants is that they seem to be good for the body.
There are few myths that surround these helpful molecules. Shonaali Sabherwal, a certified macrobiotic food consultant and instructor helps dispel a few.
What are they?
Antioxidants are nutrients in our foods which prevent or slow down the oxidative damage to our body.
When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals, a by-product, which can cause damage. Most health problems are, directly or indirectly contributed by oxidative damage. Antioxidants act as ‘free radical scavengers’ and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals.
Most commonly found antioxidants are:
Vitamin A and Cartonoids found in carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, and apricots (bright coloured vegetables and fruits); Vitamin C found in citrus fruits like oranges and lime, broccoli, leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes; Vitamin E found nuts and seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, good quality oil and cod liver oil.
Others commonly referred to as phytochemicals are:
Flavonoids or polyphenols found in soy, red wine, purple grapes, pomegranate, cranberries, tea; Lycopene found in tomatoes and tomato based-products, watermelon; Lutein in dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kiwi, brussels sprout and spinach; Lignan in flax seed, oatmeal whole oats (not the boxed processed oats off the shelf), whole barley (not bottled pearl barley), rye.
There’s no doubt that antioxidants can be good for you. But these are how you make them work for you
All antioxidants come from fruits and vegetables and fortified foods
False. Nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains have antioxidants. All living things also produce antioxidants, to fight against UV rays, or elements that would harm them in their environment. Foods with "live energy" have more varied antioxidants, than anything processed. Also, meat, dairy, eggs all have antioxidants.
Free radicals must be destroyed
Not necessarily. Sometimes we actually need these free radicals. These are released while oxidation occurs in the body and are actually required as they defend the body as well. Too many of them however, can cause harm.
Supplementing your body with antioxidants after your workout is a good way to absorb them
Not at all. If you’re exercising to lose weight, your antioxidants should come from whole foods, not from supplements or antioxidantenhanced food products.
Working out not only leads to an increase in free radicals, but also more oxidation. Exercise, gives your body a natural physical and emotional positive response to handle this oxidation. By adding antioxidants post your workout, you take away from the positives of this action. So by all means drink your green tea, but make sure your diet is wholesome and rich. Stay away from antioxidant fortified processed foods.