October 11, 2003
Every time we eat, breathe or move, our body uses fuel from food
to produce energy. But just as a car using gas to produce energy
releases harmful byproducts of this process as exhaust, so, too,
does our own body’s energy-producing efforts produce a dangerous
byproduct, called free radicals. Free radicals are highly
reactive forms of oxygen that are missing an electron. When they
come into contact with normal cells, they try to steal an electron,
damaging the healthy cell and its DNA. It’s estimated every cell
in our body takes 10,000 oxidative hits to its DNA daily!
Free radical damage has long been believed to be a risk factor of
many of the degenerative processes that accompany aging, including
heart disease, memory loss, wrinkles, and cancer.
Antioxidants, however, are the catalytic converter of free radicals.
They clean up as many free radicals as they can. If damage has already
occurred, they may give the free radical an electron to stabilize
it. Or combine with it to form a different, more stable compound.
There are also antioxidant enzymes that help the free radical react
with other chemicals to produce safe, instead of toxic, substances.
If you don’t have enough antioxidants, your body will experience
oxidative stress, resulting in significant cell damage.
Ideally, we would get much of our antioxidant protection from fruits
and vegetables. But most Americans don’t even eat the recommended
5 servings per day. Also, there are many potent antioxidants that
don’t come from food. To to optimize our antioxidants, you must
go beyond food.
Click on the links below to learn more about these antioxidant vitamins.
Vitamin A (retinal or beta-carotene)
Beta-carotene is the precursor and preferred source of vitamin A
This fat-soluble vitamin is stored in our body and is essential
for the proper formation and maintenance of cell membranes. It helps
boost your immune system, protecting against invaders that may cause
disease and fatigue. It’s also needed for the normal production
of red blood cells, helping prevent fatigue caused by anemia or
heavy menstrual bleeding. It helps improve the health of your skin,
suppressing premenstrual acne and oily skin. However, vitamin A
also should be taken for healthy skin, mucous membranes, and to
support your immune system.
Helps with: Bone
health, fatigue, reproductive
function, vision, PMS, heavy menstrual
bleeding. Beta-carotene may also help protect against breast cancer.
Recommended daily intake: 5,000 to 25,000
IU of beta-carotene per day. If you take vitamin A, then you should
take 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day.
For heavy menstrual bleeding: 5,000 to 50,000
IU of beta-carotene; 5000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin A.
Best form: A combination of beta-carotene
and vitamin A. Do not exceed the recommended vitamin A dosage since
it can adversely affect liver function.
Good food sources: orange-colored vegetables
(sweet potatoes, papaya, carrots) and dark green, leafy vegetables.
We can’t produce vitamin C or bioflavonoids on our own, so we depend
entirely on food sources and nutrients.
Bioflavonoids, while not true vitamins in the strictest sense, are
still sometimes referred to as vitamin P. Together with vitamin
C, they work to form collagen, one of the body’s main structural
proteins. Collagen is also an important component in bone. Bioflavonoids
also have mildly estrogenic activities, and so are helpful with
menopausal symptoms. Lemon bioflavonoids and rutin are commonly
combined with vitamin C.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps prevent LDL cholesterol oxidation,
the process that can result in clogged arteries, heart attacks and
strokes. It also lowers blood pressure, increases HDL cholesterol
(the “good,” protective type of cholesterol) and helps
maintain levels of vitamin E. It also has an antihistamine effect,
which can help women whose allergies get worse just before their
periods. And, by bolstering the immune system, it helps prevent
fatigue caused by infections. Vitamin C also helps you absorb iron
critical in preventing fatigue.
Helpful for: Immune system, heart
health, fatigue, heavy menstrual
bleeding, reducing stress, PMS , bone
health, anemia, inflammation, allergies, hot
flashes, vaginal dryness. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids may also
help prevent breast cancer.
Recommended daily intake:
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