Dec 232023

Our body’s cells are constantly in competition with substances called free radicals. Free radicals can cause untold damage to your body, harming just about everything inside your body. Some free radicals are made inside the body, while others are caused by the food we ingest and the air we breathe.

To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of antioxidants. Antioxidants are elements that scavenge free radicals and terminate the damage they cause to the body’s cells. They also turn the free radicals into waste by-products, resulting in their elimination from the body.

Because antioxidants prevent cellular damage, considered to be the conduit for cancer, aging, and other diseases and conditions, they are vital to our body’s good health. Antioxidants also have the amazing ability to repair previous damage to cells.

We extract antioxidants from food. Fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods deliver hundreds of antioxidants to our bodies. One of the most common vitamin antioxidants comes from beta-carotene. Since the body cannot manufacture this vitamin, it must be supplied from our diet and/or supplements.

Beta-carotene, derived from the Latin name for carrot, belongs to a family of natural chemicals known as carotenes or carotenoids. Widely found in plants, carotenes give yellow and orange fruits and vegetables their rich colors.

Beta-carotene is the most active of the deeply colored pigments called carotenoids. Since beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, it converts to retinal, a readily usable form of vitamin A.

While vitamin A has no antioxidant properties and can be toxic if taken in excessive doses, the body will only convert as much vitamin A from beta-carotene as it needs. This feature makes beta-carotene a safe source of vitamin A.

Beta-carotene’s beneficial effects include protecting the skin from sunlight damage, fighting early cancer cells, boosting immunity, and preventing cataract formation. Because the body converts the beta-carotene into vitamin A, there is no set requirement of its dosage.

Beta-carotene is found in many foods such as carrots, cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, mangos, and sweet potatoes. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, liver, spinach, kale, tomatoes, and whole grains are also rich in beta-carotene. In general, the greater the intensity of the color of the fruit or vegetable, the more beta-carotene it contains.

If your body suffers from a shortage of antioxidants, it greatly increases your risk of developing a number of diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. All of these diseases are linked to the foods we consume.

As research into the role of antioxidants continues, the message is clear. Antioxidants acquired from food sources can reduce your risk of many diseases and conditions and provide wonderful benefits to your body’s health. The more fruits and vegetables you ingest, the healthier your body will be.

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