Antioxidants are a group of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that protect the body from the formations of free radicals by neutralizing them before they can travel freely through the body wreaking havoc. Free radicals kill some cells and destroy the protective outer membranes of others. If a free radical gains access to the cell’s interior, it can damage its genetic code (DNA) that controls cell reproduction. If the DNA is altered, the cell either cannot reproduce itself, or an abnormal cell is formed.
Many plants produce antioxidants as part of their natural protective mechanism. Therefore, a diet rich in plant food is likely to provide a variety of antioxidants.
Several essential vitamins and minerals have strong antioxidant properties. These include vitamins A, C and E, selenium, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), L-cysteine, L-glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and some food additives that prevent rancidity and darkening are also antioxidants. A few examples include BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and lecithin.
Since antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, it is believed that they may be instrumental in preventing many diseases. And there is speculation that antioxidants may fight off or delay much of the deterioration that occurs with normal aging. There have been studies that indicate that antioxidants may play an important role in both the prevention and treatment of diseases. (Including heart disease, cancer, lung disease………just to name a few health benefits.)
In general, foods are considered a better source of antioxidant vitamins and minerals than pills. Although the body metabolizes artificial vitamins and minerals in the same way as natural nutrients in foods, the natural nutrients contain numerous essential substances that are not found in pills.
To assure adequate intake of antioxidants, consume a varied diet that includes fresh or lightly processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and other plant products.
Herbs containing antioxidant actions include basil, chaparral, comfrey, gingko biloba, gotu kola, kelp, purslane, sage and tea.