For years now, man has been dependent on nature for his source of nutrients essential for his health. Plants are where we get most of our foods and our medicines, relying on them almost entirely for developing our bodies to their full potential and at the same time reducing the causes of degenerative diseases.
Recently, scientists have discovered the substance responsible for many of the health benefits we’ve been receiving from plants. Fruits and vegetables it seemed contain chemical substances that act on specific, harmful molecules inside our bodies to stop them from damaging our cells. Because these substances work on oxygen by-products called free radicals, they have since come to be known as natural antioxidants.
A natural antioxidant protects the body against free radicals. One of the many functions of natural antioxidants is to work against the formation of cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive chemical substances which are produced whenever our body undergoes the process of oxidation, e.g. breathing.
When free radicals are released, they immediately latch unto other molecules, stealing their electrons and in so doing, turning them into unstable molecules like themselves. The result is a rapid chain reaction which when left unattended can lead to various degenerative diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, memory loss, etc.
Natural antioxidants are primarily derived from plants. The human body cannot produce its own supply of natural antioxidants; that is why we have to depend solely on our diet to get the amount of antioxidants our body needs.
Groups of well-known natural antioxidants include catechins, coumarins, indoles, and carotenoids. All these are complex compounds found in almost every plant. Carotenoids are the largest group of naturally occurring antioxidants, followed closely by indoles and coumarins. Catechins are the natural antioxidants found in the Camellia sinensis plant where we get our green tea, oolong tea, and black tea.
In the carotenoid group, beta-carotene is the most common natural antioxidant. Another name for beta-carotene is vitamin A, that essential vitamin that helps prevent eye damage. This natural antioxidant supports the immune system, might reduce the skin’s risk to sun damage and DNA damage, supports healthy cholesterol levels and increases lung capacity. Some studies show that this natural antioxidant supports a healthy heart.
Catechins on the other hand are great weight loss inducers. But more than that, the natural antioxidants they contain help promote health by boosting the immune system in order to reduce the risk of infection.