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Tropically Unradical

"A free radical is an inevitable by-product after food is converted to energy."
By: Adrielle AustriaTropically Unradical

With the flourish of social media, people are becoming more health conscious—what with the internet filled with your favorite celebrities’ gym selfies, healthy “snacks” and so-called inspire posts of people’s weight loss journey. Aside from exercise and healthy diet, vitamin and mineral supplements are also being added to our daily regimen.

A free radical is an inevitable by-product after food is converted to energy. It is an atom with an unpaired electron. These free radicals steal electrons from other stable molecules, radically altering the other’s structure and function.

Antioxidants are “cheerful givers”. They donate electrons to free radicals without becoming electron-thieves themselves. The term is used loosely but antioxidant is a chemical property or the ability to act as an electron donor. The most common antioxidants are vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A (retinol).

Vitamin C is essential for its different functions such as tissue growth and repair, collagen production, wound healing and iron absorption by the body. It is a water-soluble vitamin and cannot be stored by the body but the best thing about it is that it can be easily obtained from the food we eat. Vitamin C is also popular and is oftentimes the go-to supplement to ward off common cold and flu. It is available as ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate supplements. Both are effective, although sodium ascorbate preparation is the preferable choice for those with sensitive stomach who cannot tolerate the acidity of ascorbic acid and is still readily absorbed and utilized by the body as natural vitamin C. 

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant and protects us by limiting free radical production after fat is processed by the body, thereby protecting cells from damage. Beta-carotene, when converted to vitamin A, promotes good vision and healthy skin. These and other vitamins and minerals encourage a robust immune system.

Filipinos are fortunate to be living in a tropical country filled with abundant fruits rich in antioxidants. Get a load of antioxidants from the following fruits:

  • Coconut. Coconut did not earn its title, “The Fruit of Life” for nothing. Its strong antioxidant properties can benefit people with high blood pressure, infections, digestive system disorders and heart problems.
  • Papaya. The antioxidants found in papaya, particularly vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, slow down the aging process, protect against cancer and increase immune system function.
  • Mangoes. Not only are mangoes delicious, they’re packed with nutrients as well. Mangoes are rich source of beta-carotene which promotes good eye sight, preventing age-related vision loss.
  • Guava. Guavas are so common, it is found in most Filipino backyard. I remember just picking a fruit from the one in our yard and munching on it as a merienda on lazy afternoons.
  • Avocados are good source of the glutathione, an antioxidant widely known for its anti-aging benefits. Aside from slowing down aging process, glutathione may help prevent cancer and boosts the immune and nervous system.
  • Pineapple is often incorporated to a variety of dishes to liven up the flavor. It has become a staple in Filipino diet and rightly so. Aside from its taste, pineapple is also loaded with vitamins and minerals.
  • Sineguelas (Spanish plum). Unbeknownst to many, sineguelas yields a good amount of antioxidants. Studies show that it also increases erythrocyte count and hemoglobin concentration significantly.

While we may get antioxidants through popping our supplements, antioxidants in their natural form are proven to be safer and as long as you eat a well-balanced meal in moderation, its side effects are close to none. Whether you need supplements or not is still best determined by your doctor.

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