Antioxidants and healthy living: the role of 100% fruit juice
In recent years, there has been a major change in consumption patterns and attitudes toward food. Nutritional emphasis has shifted from survival and hunger management to maintenance and promotion of better health.
Previously, consumption of food was traditionally viewed as a necessity for good growth, strength, and energy. While these factors are still very relevant, food is now also considered on the basis of its physiological, psychological and medical effects on the human body.
Does it reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases? Could it lead to or prevent cancer? How does my diet affect the probability of developing obesity or diabetes? These are common questions associated with food. These and other similar questions are becoming more important in view of growing concerns for health and wellness. Recent rising costs of health care have also generated a growth in health and diet conversations in recent times.
Eating food is an object of pleasure for some people, a health remedy for others, and a matter of life and death for some unfortunate few. Food is a source of the key nutrients the body needs for growth, development and maintenance of body tissue – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oil, vitamins, minerals, and water. The way food is consumed has huge consequences for the body. Food must be eaten adequately, timely, in the right quantities, in proper combinations, and in line with the recommended dietary allowances, for the body to derive maximum benefit and obtain good health.
Closely related to good food is the topic of antioxidants and its benefits or impact on health. Growing interest in this topic has emerged in recent times, drawing extensive research from a wide range of experts.
Antioxidants and their benefits to the human body
Research shows that fruits (which include 100% or pure fruit juices) and vegetables are the primary sources of antioxidants in our diet. Antioxidants are essential for preventing premature ageing, vision loss, mood disorders, and heart diseases.
According to betterhealth.vic.gov.au, antioxidants are found in certain foods and may prevent some of the damage free radicals cause in the human body by neutralizing them. Oxidative stress occurs when there are more free radicals than antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules, which have an irregular distribution of electrons. Oxidative stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory diseases, immune deficiency, emphysema, Parkinson’s disease, and other inflammatory conditions. Antioxidants lessen or prevent the effects of free radicals by donating electrons to the free radicals, thereby reducing their reactivity.
Evidence has shown that certain nutrients present in the diet play an important role in fighting against nutritional oxidative stress. (Prasad, S., Gupta, S. C., & Tyagi, A. K. (2017). Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cancer: Role of antioxidative nutraceuticals. Cancer Letters 387; 95-105). Examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium and carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, flavones, catechins, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens; which are found in fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants in fruit juice
Many fruit juices are high in antioxidants, packed with vitamins and minerals, and beneficial in diverse ways. These fruits include peaches, raspberries, strawberries, red currants, figs, cherries, pears, guava, oranges, apricots, mangoes, red grapes, watermelon, and papaya. 100% fruit juice contains bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties. As such, fruit juices have the potential to improve the antioxidant status in the body.
A systematic review of nutritional literature published between 1995 and 2013 was conducted using PubMed database to evaluate associations between intake of 100% fruit juice, markers of antioxidant/oxidant status, and blood lipid levels in healthy adults. Data extraction and analysis was conducted according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Process. The results from ten clinical trials meeting inclusion/exclusion criteria suggest potential improvements in a variety of antioxidants after consumption of 100% fruit juice.
As humans we all desire a healthy life, and as such, we rely heavily on the nutrients, vitamins and minerals derived from our daily food consumption to stay healthy. Regardless of your motive for food consumption, be it for pleasure or remedy, one of the best measures to building and sustaining a healthy lifestyle is to regularly complement mealtimes with antioxidant-rich food and beverages such as vegetables and 100% fruit juice.
*Olusola Malomo is a registered Dietitian (Association of Dietitians in Nigeria ADN). Twitter: @malomoolusola
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