What exactly are anti-oxidants, and do I need to take them as supplements?
Anti-oxidants are chemicals that stabilize free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of the body’s normal metabolism reactions. Free radicals can cause damage to the body’s cells. The damage accumulates over time and can lead to cancers. While the body naturally produces some free radicals, they can also be generated by environmental exposure to pollution, cigarette smoke, or radiation.
There are several different types of anti-oxidants. Some examples include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and phytosterols. Anti-oxidants are naturally found in several different kinds of foods and can also be purchased as supplements. Good sources of anti-oxidants include tea, soy products like tofu, and fruits like blueberries. Each source has a different mix of anti-oxidants. Therefore, it is important to have a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to be sure you are getting an optimal amount of all the anti-oxidants you need.
Studies show that people who have a diet high in fruits and vegetables have lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are rich in anti-oxidants as well as fiber. Several studies have also looked at whether anti-oxidant supplements can reduce cancer risk. Some studies appear to show a benefit, some show no difference, and some actually show the potential for harm. Since the data is still unclear, several studies in progress continue to investigate the effects of taking supplemental anti-oxidants. The best recommendation regarding anti-oxidants at this time is to aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Do carrots really improve your eyesight?
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is metabolized by the body into vitamin A which is important for the cells in your eyes that process what you see. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include night blindness, drying of the eyes, and dry, scaly skin. Vitamin A is also important in proper function of the immune system. Vitamin A deficiency is a problem in developing countries. Most people in the U.S. have an adequate amount of vitamin A in their diet, which means that eating extra carrots will not improve your vision.
The flipside is taking too much vitamin A. Symptoms of excess vitamin A include yellow-orange skin, rash, coarse hair, dry eyes, and headaches. Unless you are taking vitamin A supplements or eating excessive amounts of vitamin A-rich foods, you will probably not overdose on vitamin A.
Good sources of vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, papaya, and mango. One medium size carrot has about 110% of the RDA for men and 145% of the RDA for women. One cup of raw spinach meets about 25% of the RDA for the average person. Low fat or skim milk and many cereals are also fortified with vitamin A. One cup of skim milk meets 20% of the RDA for the average adult. While eating carrots is an efficient way to ensure that you have fulfilled your daily requirements, a combination of other foods will also meet your nutritional needs.
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Published On: November 27, 2006