Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The colour of life .Antioxidants.- part 1

Breathing is one of the most essential activities of our survival mechanism. The oxygen that we inhale reacts with sugars and fats in our cells giving us energy to survive. Unfortunately, this energy generation has a bad by-product called "free radical." These are unstable chemicals, desperate to react with anything to make themselves stable. In their desperate quest, they react with and damage our own cells. This damage is called oxidative, and such damage to the DNA in our cells can cause the cell to multiply uncontrollably. Oxidative, damage to cholesterol carrying proteins in our blood can irritate our arteries, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Similarly UV from the sun creates free radicals in the eye, causing problems like cataract. But fear not, our body fights these 'free radicals' with antioxidant molecules, which harmlessly reacts with free radicals. Hence we need a continuous and abundant supply of antioxidants to maintain good health. The body does make a few important antioxidant molecules of its own, but the more help it gets, the better it is able to defend from the constant barrage of free radicals. Plants it turns out are a goldmine of anti-oxidants. Plants make their energy stores, by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen atoms with the use of sunlight. These are high energy reactions and can easily damage plant DNA and proteins. To protect themselves, leaves and other exposed parts of the plants are chock-full of anti-oxidant molecules. Some of the famous one's are carotenoid pigments like orange coloured beta-carotene, yellow lutein and zeaxanthin and the red lycopene. Green chlorophyll itself is an antioxidant, so are vitamin C and E. Other than these, there are thousands of other anti oxidants; many not yet discovered. A single antioxidant generally protects against a certain kind of molecular damage. No single molecule can protect against all kinds of damage. So the best way to reap the full benefit of the antioxidant power of the plant is to eats lot of different vegetables and fruits and not to take manufactured supplements of a few prominent chemicals. The danger with these supplements is that an unusually high concentration of a single type of molecule can tip the balance the wrong way and cause more damage than good. An easy way to identify a vegetable or plant with large levels of anti-oxidants is by its colour. A dark green vegetable or leaf, does lots of photosynthesis and needs much more anti-oxidants to handle the energy output. Similarly, a darker colour means more pigments and more anti-oxidants. A simple trick for a healthy life. More about these colourful friends tomorrow

1 comment:

  1. Aarina9:50 am

    Felt nice reading about this. I remember our arguments about supplements! You have come a long way love, I'm so proud of you!