Blood is our life fluid providing nourishment by carrying oxygen and vital vitamins, minerals, proteins to all parts of the body. Blood is primarily made up of blood cells and plasma. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin that carries oxygen from our lungs to various parts of the body. White blood cells are our defenders against infections and disease. In addition, plasma a very important constituent of blood helps in blood clotting.
The quality of our blood is crucial for good health. Low hemoglobin or decrease in red blood cells can cause anemia resulting in fatigue, weakness or tiredness. Adequate intake of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid ensure that the bone marrow produces healthy blood cells. Healthy blood boosts the immune system against infections & diseases.
Antioxidants play an important role in the quality of our blood. Strong blood cells and vessels with adequate antioxidant capacity help maintain regular cholesterol levels essential for heart health helping keep heart diseases such as heart attacks etc at bay. In addition, studies have established that antioxidants are also beneficial in keeping our blood pressure in check.
Now let’s find out what antioxidants are and how they work
In simple terms antioxidants are natural substances or compounds that are found in different forms in vitamins, mineral proteins in a variety of food sources.
And how are they beneficial in improving our blood quality?
Antioxidants prevent oxidation, a process where oxygen is added to a compound. Our bodies use oxygen all the time; it is a vital for breathing. As a result of oxygen being added to other compounds our bodies keep producing free radical molecules. Free radicals, if left unchecked can cause serious damage to blood cells as well as to the DNA.
Oxidation is bad for heart health as oxygen is added to LDL cholesterol or what is commonly referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ or low density lipoprotein. This results in the build up of fatty plaque on the artery walls blocking or reducing blood flow to the heart resulting in heart diseases.
Antioxidants act as recipients or in simple terms absorb the extra oxygen; reduce the level of free radicals helping prevent oxidation and subsequent damage.
Antioxidants and blood cells
Antioxidants play a crucial role in preventing oxidative stress damage. It is therefore necessary to correctly determine the levels of antioxidants in our blood stream. Recent studies suggest that blood cells can be used as an effective means to measure antioxidant vitamin status. Vitamin C and Vitamin E are key antioxidants; it is difficult to accurately measure antioxidant vitamin levels through dietary intake. But clinical research has shown that blood plasma levels can reflect acute assimilation of these vitamins. Studies further point out that antioxidant vitamin blood contents reach a saturation level by intake of dietary supplements. .Antioxidant vitamin plasma levels are the key parameter most used to determine antioxidant status.
Measuring plasma antioxidant can also help in determining atherosclerosis (a condition where fatty material or plaque collects along the walls of arteries). Blood plasma levels of lipophilic antioxidants can indicate lipoprotein oxidation in the arterial wall and also the development of atherosclerosis.
Some studies also suggest that Resveratrol and other phenolic compounds from the bark of Yucca schidigera restrain free radical production in blood platelets and are beneficial in protecting against heart diseases.
Antioxidants blood pressure
Dietary antioxidants play a vital role in controlling blood pressure. Antioxidant supplements can be beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure, helping keep their blood pressure I check. It can further lower dependency on medications. In contrast, dietary saturated fatty acids elevate blood pressure.
Studies show that antioxidant supplements high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant also found in grapes and flavonoids such as green tea, have numerous health effects including lowering cholesterol levels as well as improving blood circulation. Researchers indicate that the ability of antioxidants in lowering blood pressure is mainly due to their effect on the endothelium, the innermost layer of arterial blood vessels that expands and contracts in response to blood flow. Antioxidants help in producing fewer substances (mainly free radicals) that constrict arteries and produce more substances that expand the arteries.
Medical researchers are actively urging intake of natural antioxidants which includes two fold benefits; reduce side effects of blood pressure medications as well as control high costs of blood pressure treatments.
In order to fight against oxidative damage, our body requires the correct amount of antioxidants. And the best way to ensure that we get the required amount is to include antioxidant rich foods in our daily dietary intake.
- Foods such as apples, onions, soybeans, blueberries, cranberries, green tea, black tea, red wine and dark chocolate contain high amount of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Berries such as blue berries, raspberries, blackberries are excellent sources of polyphenols antioxidants and derive their red and purple colors from a sub class of polyphenols known as Anthocyanins. Another sub-class of polyphenols is the colorless flavanols found in cocoa and some other plant-derived foods.
- Tangerine tomatoes help boost disease fighting antioxidants in blood. They contain lycopene, a disease-fighting antioxidant and derive their rich color from the antioxidant. Lycopene belongs to a family of antioxidants called the carotenoids, which give certain fruits and vegetables their distinctive colors. Carotenoids have many health benefits, and help in reducing risk of heart diseases as well as macular degeneration. Some studies also suggest that tangerine tomatoes increase beta carotene levels in blood.
- Grape seed extract has excellent health benefits and contains high levels of polyphenols, potent antioxidants that naturally help in increasing the width of blood vessels; reduce blood pressure helping blood flow naturally to all parts of the body.
- Pomegranates are excellent sources of antioxidants that actively prevent oxidative stress. Studies have found that pomegranates contain beneficial phytonutrients such as phenolic compounds and tannins, including punicalagins as well as ACE inhibitors which help prevent vasoconstriction, lower blood pressure, and promote healthy endothelial function. Reducing heart disease risk.
Some simple health tips for high quality blood!
High quality blood is essential to maintain good health. Antioxidants may be the key to ensure that our blood remains free from oxidative stress. But some simple, healthy living can go a long way in keeping our blood healthy and of high quality.
- No smoking – don’t just avoid smoking; quit completely. Research has long maintained that blood antioxidant capacity of smokers is greatly reduced than that of non smokers. In addition, smokers are also at 70% more risk of having a heart attack due to increased oxidized lipids.
- Make sure your daily diet has sufficient amount s of fresh fruits and vegetables. When mom says eat Broccoli do it. Broccoli is very high in antioxidants. Apples, berries, grapes, pomegranates are all great for your health.
- Exercise regularly – nothing like a good workout to get the blood pumping around in your body. Don’t overdo it but a regular regimen will work wonders.
- Keep calm – now this is crucial. Anger, stress, wild mood swings, hypertension are bad fro mental health. Meditate or practice deep breathing.
- Make sure you get regular medical checkups – Consult your doctor regularly about your health. No need to excessively worry about a small cold but consulting your doctor at timely intervals won’t hurt either.
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