Health conscious people are aware of the benefits of antioxidants and the role they play to prevent heart disease, fight cancer and slowing of the ageing process.
They have also learnt that the antioxidant vitamin supplements are not effective and can not be equated with the antioxidants that are available through a wide range of foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, meats, poultry and fish. Supplements cannot be a substitute for a healthy diet.
The scientific work on antioxidants is not yet complete. There are thousands of antioxidants available in food and so far more than 4,000 flavonoids have been identified. Flavonoid is only one class of antioxidants. More and more new discoveries are being made and some times new findings are found to contradict earlier hypothesis. Food items such as chocolate, coffee and red wine which were not favored earlier are very much sought after now that their beneficial antioxidants have received recognition.
Dietary antioxidants are known to fall into two groups. The first group consists of familiar vitamins C and E and minerals such as selenium and zinc. The second group consists of thousands of organic compounds found in plant food. Prevention of oxidation and disabling of free radicals is not the only role performed by the antioxidants. They also have a role to play in reducing inflammation, keeping arteries flexible, and in preventing mutation of the cell. In addition, the individual antioxidant has certain special characteristics such as flavonoids to improve artery health and lutein to prevent muscular degeneration.
One cannot draw any conclusion about the behavior of a particular antioxidant on the basis of the laboratory findings alone. How a food behaves in a body may be altogether different from the way it is observed to behave in the test tube. We lack knowledge regarding what happens during digestion, absorption and metabolism. Some compounds may be absorbed well while others may not be so.
Antioxidants are known to work synergistically and are more beneficial working together rather than individually. One cannot store antioxidants and need to be replenished on daily basis. There is a need to have diversity in the diet. There is no single pill that can provide this.
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