ANTIOXIDANTS!

You constantly hear people talking about antioxidants and making sure to get lots of them within your diet to stay healthy, but what are antioxidants? Antioxidants are compounds the prevent oxidation of other molecules. And what does that mean? Lets take a step back. Humans along with everything else are made up of atoms. Stable atoms contain an even (paired) number of electrons. When an atom has an unstable (unpaired) electron the molecule is called a free radial. Free radicals happen through oxidation and reduction reactions. Although free radicals are necessary and have some benefits, free radicals are also the reason that people can develop cancer, atherosclerosis, and other diseases. This is where antioxidants come into play. Antioxidants are able to donate an electron with another atom to make that atom stable without becoming unstable itself. This seems great right, get lots of antioxidants and you won’t have to worry about anything! WRONG!!! You need to be careful with how much antioxidants otherwise it can lead to pro-oxidants with are extremely dangerous. So where do we get these magical little compounds? Vitamin A, C, E, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, and beta-carotene all have antioxidant properties. I am only going to share the benefits of Vitamin C, E, A and beta-carotene.

berries-antioxidants

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that helps with our immune function. It functions as an antioxidant and aids in collagen syntheses. If you do not consume enough vitamin C you can develop a disease called scurvy (although today a vitamin C deficiency is extremely uncommon). There is no dangerous toxicity from too much vitamin C because it is a water-soluble vitamin so you excrete excess when you pee. The best sources of vitamin C are in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Daily Recommended Intake

RDA men = 90mg/day

RDA women = 75mg/day

Upper limit = 2000 mg/day

VITAMIN E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. It functions as an antioxidant and helps protect cell membranes. If you do not consume enough vitamin E you can end up with hemolysis or anemia. Because it is a fat-soluble vitamin your body will not excrete the excess and if you consume too much you can end up with hemorrhaging (uncontrolled bleeding). Vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds are the best source of vitamin E.

Daily Recommended Intake

RDA = 15mg/day

Upper limit = 1,000mg/day

VITAMIN A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is actually not really an antioxidant but is similar to one. It helps with our vision and producing mucus. It is necessary for cell differentiation and growth. If you lack vitamin A it can lead to night blindness or xeropthalmia (you no longer produce tears to flush particles out of your eye). If you consume too much vitamin A it can lead to liver damage, or birth defects. Animal products such as liver and eggs are some of the best sources, along with colorful fruits and vegetables.

Daily Recommended Intake

RDA men = 900mcg/day

RDA women = 700mcg/day

Upper limit = 3000mcg/day

BETA-CAROTENE

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, which is a precursor to vitamin A and functions as an antioxidant. Because it is a precursor to vitamin a there is no real deficiency or toxicity effect. The only toxicity symptoms can be yellow-orange skin, which is not dangerous to your health. Sources of beta-carotene are red, orange, yellow fruits and vegetables and dark green fruits and vegetables.

There is no recommended intake for it.

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