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Home Life Style Life Style Antioxidants - Saviours of Health
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Written by Dr. R. K. Puri   
Thursday, 12 July 2012 11:25

Antioxidants - Saviours of Health

Antioxidents from FoodMedical service has made great triumph over germs and infections and has eradicated diseases like T.B., Cholera, Malaria, Smallpox, etc. by the use of antibiotics. But, it has made little headway so far as the modern life style diseases like Hypertension, Heart diseases, Diabetes, Cancer, etc. are concerned, because these diseases cannot be fought with antibiotics. They are the result of several factors like mental tension, lack of physical exercise, excessive greed, increased and rapid increase of fertilisers, pesticides, air and water pollutants, over-exposure of human body to radiation by X-rays, chemotherapy, use of cell phones, proliferation of mobile towers, widespread and indiscriminate use of very powerful allopathic drugs and medicines with their severe side-effects in the body, indiscriminate use of mosquito repellents, etc. These factors create grave oxidative damage to the organisms through free red cal formation in the body. Our body is being increasingly exposed to increased oxidation through use of chemicals.
The oxidative damage can be greatly reduced by many means:

  1. Begning use of excessive pesticides in crop cultivation.
  2. Banning smoking
  3. Controlling emission of various harmful chemical industrial gases and also vehicular pollution.
  4. Avoiding use of mosquito repellents, deodorants and other powerful pesticides with in our homes.

Such measures would greatly reduce oxidative damage, but we have hardly any control over them.

However, we can protect the oxidative damage to our health to a very large extent through the following measures:

  • Regular moderate physical exercise such as yogasana, brisk walking and cardio-vascular exercises. The importance of yogasanas is now being increasingly recognized that regular yogasans practice not only prevents premature aging but can also extend lifespan considerably.
  • Regular practice of pranayama is considered to considered to be the best antioxidant, as it controls both inhalation and exhalation process and thereby controls both intake of oxygen and oxidation process. Through pranayama, the body, generates energy by gradual oxidation and storing it in the form of chemical potential energy called ATP. Controlled and measured oxidation through pranayama is the best antioxidant.

Coupled with yogasana and pranayamas, we have to use antioxidants available in our food. Our body manufactures its own antioxidants also, to quench the oxidation fire and to combat chain reaction of free radicals. The antioxidants produced by the body are enzymes such as Glutathione, Peroxide, Catalase And Superoxide Dismutase. But these are not sufficient in the modern day lifestyle where the oxidant causing factors are predominant. We need more powerful weapons to counter the enemy attack. The free radicals cannot be controlled by any medicine, because the free radicals damage the cells within the arteries; i.e. those blood vessels which carry pure oxygenated blood from heart to the organs or cells. Rather drugs and medicines are the sources of more free radicals.

It is the nutrition science which has made great strides over the last 20 years to discover the enzymes, which protect our body from oxidative damage. Earlier we used to talk about calorie mostly and calorie diet like carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Our whole discussion about food was restricted to foods, which provided proteins, carbohydrates, etc. Vitamins and minerals are very important constituents of diet, but they were not much talked about. It has now been discovered that certain vitamins have very powerful antioxidant properties. These vitamins are vitamins A (Bata Carotenoid), vitamin C, vitamin E, Vitamin K and selenium – a trace metal. Other vitamins slow the aging process by preventing free radicals production or reducing the formation of free radicals.

Antioxidants are molecules which safely interact with free radicals and terminate their chain reaction and stop the m from multiplication. Our body does not manufacture these antioxidants; they have to be obtained from food. Most fresh vegetables and fruits contain the se antioxidants in abundance.

Sources of Antioxidants

Beta-carotene

It is a very powerful antioxidant and can be obtained from Spinach (Palak), Carrot, Broccoli, tomato, Milk, Butter, Egg yolk, Mango, Peaches, etc. This is converted into vitamin A, by itself has no antioxidant property and can rather be toxic, if taken in excess. Hence, there is no use of talking Vitamin A tables or capsules or rather then regular intake can be harmful. Therefore, Vitamin A has to be obtained only from fruits and  raw vegetables, which are full or beta carotene. Mangoes and Carrots, if taken regularly in season can supply us this antioxidants, supplemented with daily intake of milk and butter. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and, therefore, consumption of homemade butter, is absolutely necessary for absorption of this vitamin, beta-carotene prevents cancer also.

Vitamin C

It is a water soluble vitamin, found in abundance in citrus fruits, green pepper cabbage, palak, broccoli and straw berries and guava. Amla is the richest source of  vitamin C, followed by guava (Amrood),lemon, oranges, etc. one Amla has got 21 times more vitamins C than one lemon and 3 times more than guava. Among fruits, guava is the richest source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the best antioxidant, as it has very powerful properties of providing elasticity to blood vessels (arteries, etc.), and cleaning the blood vessels from waste products, cholesterol, etc. By keeping our blood vessels elastic and toxin free, it acts as the best anti-aging agent. That is why, Chyavan Prash (which mainly consists of Amla) was invented by Chyavan Rishi to keep the body ever youthful. Taking vitamin C daily (about 2 Amlas per day) is excellent for keeping us healthy, disease free and young. But, unfortunately vitamin C cannot be stored by body (as it is water solube); it must be consumed daily in some form or the other. Therefore, if you want to be healthy and ever youthful, make it a habit of taking 2 tbsp. of Amla juice in winter and two tbsp. of lemon juice (equivalent to two lemons) in other seasons every day, supplemented with other vitamin fruits rich in Vitamin C or vegetables such as guava, oranges, mosambi, tomatoes, raspberries, green pepper, etc.

Vitamin E

It is a fat soluble vitamin. It protects us against blood clots and improves blood circulation and can be obtained from nuts and seeds, vegetables and fish oils, whole grains, wheat germ, apricots, etc. Sprouted grains are excellent sources of Vitamin E. Nuts Like Groundnuts, almond contain very powerful antioxidants.

Selenium

Selenium is a trace metal which is required by body’s antioxidant enzyme system. Vitamin C,E, Selenium prevent free radicals from oxidising (removing free electrons) from sensitive biological molecules. These antioxidants, however, require the help of other enzymes also found in Vitamins B, folic acid, phyto-chemicals, phyto-nutrients, lycopene, omega-3 fatty acids like A.L.A. and lignan. All these can be obtained from fruits and vegetables mainly lycopene is very important for prevention of cancer and is found in abundance in tomatoes, cauliflower, guava, pumpkin, broccoli, pomegranate (Anar), etc/ Wheatgrass juice is one of the best antioxidant, as it contains so many vitamins and minerals.Working of Antioxidents

Antioxidants can also be obtained from flax-seeds and herbs like dalchini, haldi, cloves, tulsi, aloe vera, as hwagandha, shatavari, arjun chhal, brahmi, etc. Hence, it is absolutely essential to have at least 5 servings of fruits and raw vegetables daily. Besides, regular moderate exercises like yogasanas and pranayamas are absolutely essential. Consumption of junk food, canned food, tinned food and stale food must be reduced as far as possible, as they cause the maximum free radical activity in the body. Freshly made homemade food is the best. Acid forming foods should be avoided. Remember, the stronger is your immune system the lesser is the free radical activity in the body.

When we were talking of free radicals and the factors behind it, the picture looked so frightening. But now, we know that we need not be so afraid. God almighty has given us very powerful and easily accessible tools to fight them. We should be grateful to God for this, but of course, we do need to mend our ways and avoid our self-destructive attitude. Just do a little exercise, eat more fruits and vegetables, and be Happy.

Another very useful tool to stop proliferation of free radicals is’ Calorie Restriction. Calorie restriction, reduced meal frequency or intermittent fasting are important tools to reduce oxidation, and thereby, they increase lifespan. Fasting once a week can really do  wonders. Similarly, calorie restriction to just 1500-1600 calories per day through fibrous and nutritious diet and  eating very light meals in the evening reduce toxicity in the body. Heavy meals at night, after sunset, are the biggest culprits. The urban middle class in India, have got into the habit of eating late at  night, around 9to 10 pm, and that too, quite heavily. Since this food does not get digested easily, it produces too, quite heavily. Since this food does not get digested easily, it produces toxins and free radicals The lesser you eat; the better it would be for health. Obviously, this would mean a severe curtailment of junk food which is very rich in calories. The lesser the food in body, the lesser would be the oxidation. The more the acidic food, the more will be oxidation; and conversely. The more the alkaline food, the lesser the oxidation. Therefore, our diet should be predominantly alkaline. Remember, only fruits and raw vegetables, milk and dry fruits are alkaline, whereas, most of the other food is acidic, including grains, rice, pulses, all non-vegetarian food, tea, coffee, cold drinks, etc. the more fruits and raw vegetables or sprouts you eat, the lesser the acidity, lesser the oxidation and lesser the free radicals. Our food is the main culprit  for our diseases. Just change your food habits and you will become healthier.

Source - Nisargopchar -Nov -2011

 
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