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Why antioxidants and other natural compounds are important
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other compounds found in foods that can help slow down or prevent the oxidation process. There are at least 17 compounds in tart cherries with antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants help prevent or repair damage done to the body's cells by free radicals. Simply put, a free radical is a molecule with a missing electron.
An antioxidant, such as vitamin C, vitamin E or beta carotene, may donate one of its electrons to the free radical. If no antioxidants are present, a free radical takes an electron from vital cell structures, damaging the cell and eventually leading to disease.Antioxidants have been shown to increase immune function and possibly decrease risk of infection and cancer. Based on the research at MSU, tart cherries are a rich source of naturally occurring antioxidants, which could be effective replacements for synthetic antioxidants.
Anthocyanins are natural colorants belonging to a group of compounds called the flavonoids. They are widely distributed among fruits, such as cherries, vegetables and flowers. In addition to their colorful characteristics, anthocyanins possess potent antioxidant properties.
The antioxidant activities of the anthocyanins may account for the beneficial effects derived from the consumption of fruits and vegetables high in anthocyanins, such as cherries, against cardiovascular and other diseases.
Across the nation, insomniacs are gobbling up melatonin in rapid fashion. The hormone is being touted as a natural way to get a more restful sleep. Richard Wurtman, the inventor who holds the patent covering the use of melatonin for controlling sleep, says that melatonin levels in the body are responsible for controlling the body's daily circadian rhythms. Preliminary research shows that cherries have a high melatonin content.
Vitamins C and E
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and also helps make another antioxidant—vitamin E—more effective. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance of 60 milligrams of vitamin C could likely be set much higher, but a healthy diet provides plentiful vitamin C. High doses of vitamin E have been linked to the prevention of heart disease because it helps prevent the oxidation of LDL, so-called "bad" cholesterol inside the arteries. Oxidation of LDL can cause heart disease and stroke.
The 17 compounds in tart cherries that have antioxidant properties are considered, in total, to be superior to the activity of vitamins E and C.