Importance of antioxidants for the human body

Primary sources of naturally occurring antioxidants are whole grains, fruits and vegetables. (Photo source: IE)

By Dr. Karuna Singh

In today’s scenario, changes in lifestyle like cigarette smoking, dependence on fast and junk foods, sedentary work culture and various environment related factors like pollution, radiation, etc, have caused several chronic and degenerative ailments and various degenerative processes associated with. This is mainly due to accumulation of free radicals which are natural by-products of cell metabolism causing oxidative stress, inflammation in the body leading to DNA and protein damage in the body. Body can derive free-radical fighters from food. These defenders are known as antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals that donate electrons and hence prevent the oxidation of other chemicals by inhibiting the initiation or propagation of oxidizing chain reaction and therefore protect neutralizing the damages.

The most familiar and naturally occurring antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other related carotenoids, along with the minerals selenium and manganese. Likewise, glutathione, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens are also considered as antioxidant compounds have been recognized as having the potential to reduce disease risk including cancer and heart disease. Primary sources of naturally occurring antioxidants are whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The antioxidants defence within the cell are of two types, i.e., (i) fat soluble cellular membrane consisting of vitamin E, beta-carotene and coenzyme Q and (ii) water soluble antioxidant scavengers present inside the cell consisting of vitamin C, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide, dismutase (SD) and catalase.


· Vitamin A: Food rich in vitamin A are yellow vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, milk, cheese and animal sources such as liver, milk, butter, egg yolk and mozzarella dark green

· Beta-carotene (lycopene): Food rich in Beta-carotene are green leafy vegetables and ripe yellow fruits and vegetables like papaya, mango, muskmelon, pumpkin and carrot.

· Vitamin C: Rich sources are citrus fruits, orange, lemon, wet lime, guava, gooseberry and sprouted pulses.

· Vitamin E (Tocopherols): Its sources are cereals, oil seeds and nuts.

· Selenium: Meats, sea foods and cereals are the rich source of selenium.

· Flavonoids: They exhibit several biological effects such as antitumoral, anti -ischaemic, anti-allergic, anti-hepatotoxic, anti-ulcerative, and anti-inflammatory activities some dietary flavonoids are:

Ø Catechin from Tea and red wine;

Ø Flavanones from citrous fruits;

Ø Flavanols (e.g. Quercetin) from Onions, olives, tea, wine and apples;

Ø Anthocyanidins from Cherries, strawberries, grapes and coloured fruit

Ø Caffeic acid from Grapes, wine, olives, coffee, apples, tomatoes, plums and cherries

Intake of antioxidants can protect our body against the damage induced by free radicals acting at various levels. Including antioxidant rich sources in the diet derived from natural sources can help in reducing various types of lifestyle related diseases. The traditional Indian diet, spices and medicinal plants are rich sources of natural antioxidants. Hence a proper intake of a balanced diet loaded with plant rich antioxidants should be made a pattern of daily intake.


· Eat more plant-based meals – these foods have the highest amounts of antioxidants

· Make your plate colourful. Include all colours vegetables and fruits to your diet as most dark or bright coloured veggies and fruits are packed with antioxidants

· Use steaming as a method of cooking vegetables instead of boiling to avoid loss of antioxidants.

· Prefer food as a source of antioxidants instead of supplements.

Mind it supplements are just to supplement the gaps not to replace any component.

(The author is Professor, Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Allied Health Sciences, Sharda University, Greater NOIDA. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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