For all living beings, food is the basic necessity. Dietary nutrients in the form of carbohydrate, protein and fat are metabolized to produce energy. Every time, we breathe in, we take up oxygen from air. This oxygen is used in the process of metabolism. But the flipside is that during this process, certain damaging molecules are produced called 'free radicals' which can harm the healthy cells of our body. Our body do have a natural mechanism of multiple types of antioxidants (vitamin A, C and E) and antioxidant enzymes (like peroxidase, catalase) which can fight with the free radicals. Anti-oxidants can deactivate the free radicals before they can attack the healthy cells. But whenever, there is insufficient antioxidant supply via food or decrease activity of antioxidant enzymes, our body goes through oxidative stress which results in oxidative damage to healthy cells by free radicals. A state of oxidative stress can be harmful as it can result in many disease processes like heart diseases, cancers or other degenerative diseases. Therefore, dietary sources of antioxidants become very important to protect us from these free radicals.

Normally, our body's natural mechanism is capable of fighting with the free radicals produced during metabolism. But certain factors like environmental pollution, smoking, alcohol, excessive sunlight, stress and toxins like radiation can elevate the production of free radicals in our body which is very harmful and may lead to many disease processes. So, a regular intake of antioxidants in our diet becomes utmost necessity. Researches have proved many health benefits of antioxidants. They maintain the cardiovascular health by preventing the free radical attack on arteries which actually is the primary cause of atherosclerosis. They also reduce the oxidative stress of cholesterol and prevent them (low density lipoproteins) on adhering on arterial walls. Antioxidants help to boost our immune system and prevent us from all sorts of infection. They prevent inflammation of joints like in arthritis. Studies have already linked the prevention of cancers to the regular intake of antioxidants. People who are already affected by cancer and undergoing treatment, with regular intake of antioxidants would help in promoting the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduce the side effects. Besides these, antioxidants help us from protecting the central nervous system by preventing the nerve cell damage and avert us from diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. They also prevent us from eye related disorder like glaucoma or macular degeneration. Antioxidants improve the cellular functions of our body and there by slowing down the aging process. So, nowadays, antioxidants have become very popular as anti aging agents.

Dietary sources of antioxidants are like vitamin A, C and E, lycopene, beta carotenoids, isoflavonoids, selenium, zinc, copper, manganese, lutein and many more. They are naturally found in all bright coloured fruits and vegetables like green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, whole grains, nuts (like walnuts, almond, hazelnuts and cashew nuts), berries of all types, tomatoes, carrots, beans, pepper, sprouts, broccoli and many more. Vitamin C mainly is found in all citrus fruits, spinach, pepper and broccoli. Vitamin E is found in abundant in whole grains, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Fishes, seafood, chicken, eggs and dairy products are also rich sources of antioxidant like selenium and zinc. Researches do give some specific recommendation of antioxidants to all age groups. But the best recommendation is daily intake of fresh fruits and cooked or steamed vegetables four to five servings in our everyday diet. Researches on antioxidant supplements benefit is still not clear. Some studies have stated that antioxidants given in supplement form are not that effective than taken in natural form. So, supplements should be taken only on doctor's advice. Therefore, a regular intake of well balanced diet with wholesome grains and fresh fruits and vegetables is the best solution to stay fit and healthy.

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A Medical Professional who likes writing on health related topics.