Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that burrow their way into healthy cells, causing permanent damage. Eventually, an overabundance of cell damage from free radicals leads to long-term health problems, including heart disease. While you can take certain supplements to help ward off free radicals, they aren’t guaranteed to prevent any types of diseases. Ideally, however, you should get all of your free radical-fighting nutrients from your diet since they work most efficiently together and you'll get other beneficial nutrients, too.
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Vitamin A includes a group of antioxidant compounds, such as beta carotene, alpha carotene and beta cryptoxanthin. As antioxidants, they neutralize, and thus destroy, free radicals, often before they hit. These vitamin A subgroups are especially helpful for preventing damage to your eyes and could slow the progression of vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration. To get adequate amounts of all of these free-radical-fighting compounds, you need to meet your recommended dietary allowance set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Men require 900 micrograms of vitamin A each day, while women need 700 micrograms. You can also get vitamin A from brightly colored red, orange and yellow foods like bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes and mangoes.
Vitamin C is particularly beneficial for smokers. Cigarette smoking increases oxidative stress on cells, leading to a high amount of destruction from free radicals. But even if you don’t smoke, you’ll still have oxidative stress in your body. It happens as a side effect of digestion or every time you breathe in polluted air. This oxidation leads to inflammation, cardiovascular disease and the development of cancer, in some cases. If you’re male, get 90 milligrams of vitamin C daily, or if you’re female, take 75 milligrams. Increase your dosage by another 35 milligrams if you smoke. Aside from taking supplements, you’ll get vitamin C from any type of fruit and vegetable, especially bell peppers, oranges, kiwis, broccoli and strawberries.
Protect your cells even further by getting enough vitamin E. This antioxidant also scours through your body, destroying any free radicals in its path to keep you healthy. Vitamin E is particularly important for protecting heart cells, possibly preventing or minimizing your risk of cardiovascular disease. This vitamin’s antioxidant benefits could also lower your chances of cognitive decline and eye disorders, although studies are mixed. Adults of both genders have the same vitamin E requirements of 15 milligrams, or 22.4 international units, daily. If you want more vitamin E out of your diet, eat sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach or broccoli. Corn, soybean and wheat germ oil are other sources of vitamin E.
Support From Selenium
While technically a mineral, not a vitamin, selenium works alongside antioxidant vitamins to clear your system of free radicals. Selenium turns into specialized proteins in your body that each have different roles. Some of them help maintain and preserve vitamin C, for optimal free radical protection. Other types of selenium proteins safeguard blood vessels, limiting damage from free radicals. Aim for 55 micrograms of selenium each day. Seafood and fish, such as shrimp, crab, salmon and halibut, are some of the richest selenium sources. Pork, brown rice and enriched noodles are other ways to up your intake.