Antioxidants, Mechanisms in Medicine and Superfoods
Research has proven that antioxidants prevent degenerative diseases, are curative, anti-aging, maintain optimum health and promote general wellbeing. Their unique power derives from their ability to fight free radicals, and oxidants that are produced during cell metabolism and from external sources such as pollutants, medication, cigarette smoke and radiation. An overload of free radicals or oxidants in the body causes oxidative stress that eventually predisposes one to degenerative diseases like cancer, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, aging, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. The human body has the capacity to prevent oxidative stress by producing antioxidants, but they are also obtained from foods and supplements.
There is a wave of health consciousness, and people have come to a realization that processed foods do not do much for their health and nutrition, and are in fact the cause to a host of health problems. They are now opting for more healthy alternatives that ward off disease and keep them in top shape. Though there is no single food that can claim to have all nutrients needed by the human body. Research has proven that some foods are more nutritious than others.
Superfoods are foods that are nutrient dense, low in calories, surpass basic nutrition content, are rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. They provide the body with vital nutrients that fight disease, cure ailments and ensure optimum wellbeing. They include most fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and spices. Some of the best-known superfoods include kale, broccoli, spinach, quinoa, nuts, beans, eggs, chia seeds, coconut oil, mustard greens, sweet potatoes and green tea. All berries are considered superfoods, because they are rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins, fiber, vitamins and a host of other nutrients and minerals.
Herbs and spices have been used for their medicinal qualities since time in memorial; extracts from herbs like aloe vera, ginkgo, mint, licorice, and fenugreek are used in medicine. They strengthen the immune system, are anti-inflammatory, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and are rich in antioxidants that prevent degenerative diseases.
The following table shows a list of some superfoods and their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) values, signifying antioxidant potency.
*ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is a unit of measurement for antioxidants developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA).