Antioxidants have been in limelight as true superheroes in recent years. Science has recently proved that antioxidants fight the effects of free radicals and slow down the aging process. They are the first line of defense in preventing various diseases. For better understanding the importance of antioxidants it is necessary to get acquainted with their enemy- the free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable and reactive molecules as they contain one or more unpaired electron. As a result to become stable they aggressively steal an electron from other stable molecule, in doing so they attack and damage healthy tissue cells.Free radicals are formed as byproducts of various metabolic activities in the body, respiration etc, or due to various environmental factors such as exposure to radiation from sun or X-rays, pollutants such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, car exhaust, stress etc.
Nearly all processes related to aging including skin aging are due to attack of free radicals on cells. At the same time it is important to know that free radicals are not all bad. Body needs them in small amount to destroy bacteria and fight off infection. Produce vital hormones and activate enzymes.The danger sets in when they are in excess and in uncontrolled amount.
Lifestyle, diet, exposure to environmental toxins increases the amount of free radicals. Its effect is manifested in the form of early onset of wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, age spots and various other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, macular degeneration etc.
Here comes the rescuing role of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals by neutralizing them. They generously donate an electron to free radicals. There are various types of antioxidants: those from diet and those that are produced by the body itself. The 4 major antioxidant nutrients are Vitamin A (beta- carotene), Vitamin E, Vitamin C, selenium. The antioxidants that body prepares itself are glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase.
Vitamins That Are Antioxidants And Slow Down Aging Process
Antioxidants have a scavenging effect on free radicals when taken internally or applied externally on skin.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A has vital role in proper functioning of eyes and maintenance of skin structure. The scientific name is retinol. It bolsters body resistance from infections and keeps the lining of body healthy. The skin and mucus membrane are the first line of defense against invading toxins and microorganisms. Vitamin A intake in normal diet enhances skin strength and prevents wrinkling, loss of elasticity, age spots and various other skin problems.
- Beta carotene: Beta carotene is a type of vitamin A, having most powerful antioxidant properties. It prevents formation and inactivates excess of free radicals. It traps the free radicals and breaks their chain reaction. It destroys cancer causing substances present in the body. Beta carotene is known to be effective against lung cancer and also protects formation of cataract in the eyes. Good source of vitamin A and beta carotene is carrots, fish, egg yolk, whole milk, turnips, colocasia, drumsticks, beet, mangoes, apricots, gooseberries, raspberries, oranges, etc.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a crucial antioxidant required to maintain healthy immune system. It works against toxins and pollution that damage cells and cause mutations. It inactivates some food carcinogens and protects lung lining from damage caused due to air pollution. Because vitamin C is an excellent source of electrons, vitamin C effectively deactivates these radicals. It improves and strengthens blood vessels, skin structure, and prevents early wrinkle formation. Fruits and vegetables are good source of vitamin C.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E delays aging by prolonging life of cells in the body. Vitamin E also protects vitamin C and vitamin A from free radical activity, thus it keeps them potent. It stops the chain reaction of free radicals. It prevents cell membrane damage and thus helps to combat disease. Vitamin E is also known to ward off free radical attack from oxidative compounds found in smog, cigarette smoke, and other toxic products. Wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, soya bean oil, egg, butter, sprouts and grains are good source of vitamin E.
- Selenium: It is a trace mineral present in all tissues of the body. It is best known to fight cancer. Selenium protects liver from damage. It also helps to maintain the elasticity of body tissues. It prevents oxidation of fatty tissue and keeps it soft. Selenium is useful for maintaining skin elasticity. Whole wheat, barley, wheat germ are the best source of selenium.