We hear the term antioxidants bandied about quite freely and they are often included in the list of ingredients in a lot of foods. The theory is that they help prevent cancer but how exactly do they do this and what are they? Antioxidants are substances that prevent the body’s cells from being damaged by free radicals.
These free radicals have the potential to cause cancer. How it works is that free radicals are unstable cells because they have lost one electron. Then, in an attempt to become whole, they take electrons from other healthy cells but in the process they create more free radicals. DNA can be damaged when electrons are taken from cells, which leads to the possibility of cancer developing.
The risk factors for free radicals to form include prolonged exposure to sunlight, pollution, and smoking. However, even usual everyday processes such as breathing and digestion can help form free radicals.
This is where antioxidants help. They heal these free radicals by providing them with the missing electron, so that they don’t attack other cells and deprive them of electrons, so the damage to these cells is minimized. Additionally, antioxidants can restore a cell to its original condition, repairing the damage done to it by free radicals. Antioxidants also help to convert the free radicals into waste that is then ultimately removed from the body.
There are quite a few sources of antioxidants that can be included in your regular diet and include some vitamins, beta carotene, lycopene, and so on. Vitamin A, which is mostly found in the form of retinol, is very effective in preventing cancer and can be found in milk, egg yolk, liver, and carrots. Vitamin C is provided by eating berries, broccoli, beef, some kinds of fish, and citrus fruits; this vitamin helps to protect you from lung cancer, colon cancer, mouth cancers, and throat cancer.
Vitamin E is found to prevent cancers of the prostrate and can be derived from foods such as almonds and cereals as well as green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale—these are also rich in lutein, which can help prevent colon cancer. Beta carotene has long been known to ward off cancers such as lung cancer and is mostly found in orange vegetables such as cantaloupe, papaya, guava, carrots, and pumpkin. Tomatoes and processed tomato products are rich in lycopene, which is thought beneficial to prevent prostate cancer. Green tea is highly helpful in fighting free radicals and can be taken in its natural form or as a supplement.
Consult your doctor or a nutritionist so that you don’t overdo these supplements, and also let them know your medical history and any medications you are on so that there is no clash. Too much of a good thing can also be bad for you. Try and work out a diet that is varied and rich and well balanced with all the necessary nutrients that you require, such as vegetables, fruits, healthy meat and fats. You can take supplements based on medical advice or a multivitamin that provides for all-round health.