In Nature's Healthy Essentials Fruits and Vegetables.

In Nature's Healthy Essentials Fruits and Vegetables.

Where do you find Antioxidants?

How do Antioxidants Work? Antioxidants tackle free radicals by using a variety of tactics. One strategy is to run interference between the free radical and the cell material it has targeted to attack for an electron. By giving the free radical one of its own electrons, the antioxidant spares the cell material from damage. Antioxidants that work this way are called free-radical scavengers. Vitamin C, Beta-Carotene, and Vitamin E all work as scavengers.

Mineral antioxidants use another tactic. These minerals are attached to cell proteins called enzymes. The enzymes take out the free radicals through chemical reactions. Selenium works with an enzyme called glutathoine peroxidase, while zinc works with superoxide dismulase, or SOD. A protein in the blood called ceruloplasmin, which contains copper, may also act as an antioxidant. Each of these enzymes have a particular free radical it keeps under surveillance.

The various antioxidants cooperate with one another to achieve their goal of protection against free-radical damage. They require this team effort because antioxidants exist in different places in the cell and attack different free radicals. Vitamin E usually protects the fat in the cell membranes, while Vitamin C protects mostly proteins. Beta-Carotene is the most powerful defense we have against free radicals formed by ultraviolet light. Selenium enzymes protect the cell machinery that generates energy. Zinc enzymes take up stations at other points to halt free radicals that might have slipped by other antioxidants.

Vitamin C also helps put Vitamin E back in action by giving it another electron once Vitamin E loses its electron to a free radical. Likewise, vitamin E steps in to help out if selenium supplies are insufficient. So taking in adequate selenium frees vitamin E to be more effective in its other duties.

The Missing Piece: Anutrients
Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals - our nutrition puzzle seems complete. But something is missing: the parts don''t quite fit. Shake the frame, and the pieces are loose. What have we lost? Researchers have been asking themselves that question for a long time, and they are finally getting close to the answer. Recently, some investigators suggested the name "anutrients" for those compounds that protect the body from the environment. These compounds have no known deficiency symptoms and seldom produce toxic effects. Anutrients are found in fruits, vegetables and grains. Some anutrients are pigments such as the carotenes (yellow-red), the chlorophylls (green), the anthocyanins (red-blue), the proanthocyanidins (colorless) and the flavonoids (colorless or yellow). Sulfur compounds, which give the cabbage family its distinctive odor, are also anutrients. The list grows longer every year. It may take decades to identify all the nutrient compounds and even longer to figure out how they work. But don''t wait for all the cataloging to be done before you reap the benefits that anutrients have to offer. Your puzzle pieces may start to get loose.