Whether your goal is weight loss or fat loss (they are not the same), you should keep in mind that you are making all these efforts for health and disease control or disease prevention. That is, your ultimate goal is (and should be), the prevention of all obesity-related issues and diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoarthritis or untimely aging. Antioxidants play a very important role against the progression of these diseases, especially atherosclerosis, which is a precursor of heart disease.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances, usually vitamins, minerals, enzymes or phyto-nutrients, that protect the body from damage caused by oxidation. Oxidation is a process that causes damage to our body tissues, through the work of free radicals. Chemically, antioxidants donate an electron to the free radical and convert it to a harmless molecule.
The body can also manufacture its own antioxidants. In our body, nutrients such as beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor), vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium act as antioxidants. However, an increase in the free radical load would place stress on the body if sufficient dietary antioxidants were not available.
What are Free Radicals?
Free Radicals are toxic molecules of oxygen that damage most tissues of our body. They are nothing but natural by-products of a continuous biochemical reaction in the body, which includes routine metabolic processes and immune system responses. Free radicals are unstable molecules because they have a deficiency of an electron, which in stable molecules exists in pairs. Free radicals steal an electron from another molecule to create another one. The new one then duplicates the process of oxidation, resulting in a chain reaction of events, which eventually damages the body tissues.
Conditions responsible to promote formation of free radicals are:
1. Pesticides: If pesticides and herbicides are used on crops, consumption of foods prepared from such crops can cause increases in the existing toxin load in the body. It is therefore important to consume food prepared from organically grown crops.
2. Pollution: Urban life is full of pollution exposing you to the harmful pollutants and increasing your burden of toxins. Traffic jams and residing near industrial zones with polluting industrial units will add to the burden.
3. Tobacco smoke: All smokers, including passive smokers (second-hand smoke), are exposed to enhanced amounts of chemicals generating free radicals in the body. Experts advise consumption of 25 mg of vitamin C for every cigarette smoked.
4. Stress: Stress, related to urban lifestyles and competitive job environments, is also a contributing factor to the excess generation of free radicals in your body.
5. Food additives: Food additives, like preservatives, essences and colors are added to improve the appearance, aroma, shelf life and stability of processed foods, but these potentially boost the formation of free radicals in the body. Consume food that is freshly prepared, lightly colored and has minimal additives.
6. Food preparation: Cooking, especially frying and deep-frying, create substances that after consumption that enhance their formation in your body.
More information on the role of antioxidants and free radicals in weight loss and disease control is freely available at Weight Loss, Antioxidants and Free Radicals.