Understanding Antioxidants And Their Effect on Free Radicals

A walk down the aisles of a grocery store is proof of the fact that the hype around antioxidants is very much real. They are in your food, your packaged juice, and your skincare. Highly promoted by dieticians and health professionals, antioxidants are said to slow the aging process and help prevent vision loss, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, amongst other things. But what is an antioxidant and how does it work? Let’s take a closer look.

Antioxidants are a group of compounds found in food that share a chemical property. They are known for their ability to protect our body by neutralizing free radicals. They help prevent and reduce the damage caused by free radicals.

What Are Free Radicals?

By definition, free radicals are essentially unstable atoms and are natural by-products of chemical processes such as cellular respiration [1]. Additionally, free radicals are also formed from the air we breathe, the water we drink and things we consume such as tobacco or alcohol.

Our body needs the energy to function. We get this energy from the food we consume, which is then broken down in the mouth, the stomach, and the intestine and finally absorbed into the blood. Once in the bloodstream, sugars are made into energy within tissue cells by a process called cellular respiration, the by-product of which is free radicals.

Free radicals form when atoms or molecules gain or lose electrons. Because of their unstable and reactive nature, free radicals scavenge the body to find a replacement for their missing electron and regain stability. In this process, they end up damaging proteins, DNA and even cause cell death [1]. 

How Do Antioxidants Work?

An imbalance between the free radical and antioxidants leads to a state called oxidative stress, which leads to cell and tissue damage [2]. Factors such as lifestyle, diet, and environmental conditions contribute to oxidative stress, symptoms of which include headaches memory loss, fatigue, gray hair, and more.

This is where antioxidants come into play. They bind with the unstable free radicals by giving up their electrons. This terminates the oxidative chain reactions and the body’s cells and muscles are no longer under attack.

Sources of Antioxidants

Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, however, it is not enough. A diet rich in antioxidants is essential to keep the body healthy. Here’s a list of most common antioxidants and where you can get them.

  1. Vitamin A:  Orange vegetables like carrot, sweet potato and green leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage are good sources with vitamin A.  Vitamin A is also found in liver, milk, and egg yolks.
  2. Vitamin C: Citrus fruits such as orange, lime, kiwi are rich sources of Vitamin C. Additionally, green vegetables such as broccoli, capsicum, and spinach are also packed with this vitamin.
  3. Vitamin E: All kinds of nuts, sunflower seeds, and greens like spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of the vitamin. You can also find vitamin E in vegetable oils, avocados, and whole grains.
  4. Beta-carotene: This antioxidant is mostly found in fruits and vegetables that are red, yellow or orange. These include sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mango, apricot, cantaloupe, and carrot. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli also contain beta-carotene.
  5. Lycopene: Red fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, tomatoes, grapefruit, and papaya are packed with lycopene. Guava, red cabbage and bell peppers are also excellent sources.
  6. Lutein:  The best natural food sources of lutein are green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale, broccoli, and spinach.
  7. Selenium:  Animal produce and seafood such as ham, tuna, oysters, beef, beef, chicken, and shrimp are rich in selenium. Brazil nuts, tofu, cottage cheese, whole-wheat pasta, and mushrooms are great vegetarian sources of this antioxidant.

Additionally, dark chocolates, green tea, and coffee are also rich sources of antioxidants. If required, one can take supplements as per directions from the doctor.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10693912

5 Nutrients To Combat Hair Loss In Winter

The dropping temperatures, snug pull-overs, and warm lattes; winter brings a sense of happiness to most. However, for those with thinning hair, this season may bring the exact opposite emotion. While it is normal for you to lose hair in winter [1], an excessive amount of this can be quite disheartening. Don’t pull out your hair in worry just yet, we tell you ways to fix this with amazing nutrients and foods. 

  1. Iron: Iron [2] controls the hemoglobin in your body, which is used to transport oxygen in the blood and to your organs. If you are low on iron, your body finds it tough to get enough oxygen, especially to your hair and nails, causing hair loss. Have iron-rich foods or supplements to strengthen your hair. 

Foods Rich in Iron: Green vegetables, mangoes, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds.

  1. Selenium: You body has enzymes that are responsible for killing the harmful free radicals that affect your skin and hair cells, causing hair fall and premature aging. Selenium [3] helps them be more reactive, which means fight better. It even helps balance the thyroid function and boosts antioxidants, both of which help in better hair strength. More importantly, it is used to treat dandruff, a common side effect in dry air of winter season.

Foods Rich In Selenium: Brazil nuts, wheat germ, whole grains, oats, brown rice, fish, seafood, and lean meats.

  1. Zinc: Zinc [4] influences your hair follicle’s protein structure. In addition, it acts as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor (5-ARI) that manages hormone-related hair loss. In fact, most hair supplements have zinc to stop and even reverse the early stages of balding.

Foods Rich In Zinc: Meat, seafood and fish, legumes and beans, dairy, eggs, and whole grains

  1. Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of life, and amino acids [5] are building blocks of protein. They help breakdown foods, move nutrients to the bloodstream, and regulate hormones and appetite, so they’re a vital part of your body. Your hair cells are full of amino acids, but the harsh weather can reduce and damage these nutrients, hence you need to replenish them with your diet. Not only do they stop hair fall, but they also aid in creating healthy and shiny hair.

Foods Rich In Protein: Meat, fish, dairy products, pulses, soy

  1. Biotin: This is a water-soluble vitamin B [6] that helps process certain nutrients like amino acids and minerals, and convert them into useful energy for the body. It helps revitalize your hair and keep them strong.

Foods Rich In Biotin: Egg yolk, roasted almonds, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potato, spinach

Along with a healthy diet of the above items, ensure that you care for your hair with organic shampoos and oils.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2003996
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678013/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828511/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-20041-9
  6. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2015/841570/