WHAT ARE ANTIOXIDANTS? Antioxidants are nutritional substances -- vitamins, minerals, and enzymes -- that can counteract the damaging, but normal, effects of oxidation in animal tissue. They block the oxidation process by neutralizing free radicals: chemically active atoms that grab electrons from the body, thereby damaging cells, proteins and DNA. The same process causes oils to go rancid and peeled apples to turn brown. Antioxidants may play a role in preventing diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, consuming mega-doses of antioxidants can be harmful, causing diarrhea, bleeding, and the risk of toxic reactions.
ABOUT TEA: The same plant, Camellia sinensis, supplies the leaves that people steep in hot water and call black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea. Herbal teas are usually infusions of other leaves, fruits, and herbs that can be steeped in water to create a beverage. Examples of this include chamomile tea and red tea, which is made by steeping a plant called rooibos in water. Some types of pine needles can be used to create a tea-like beverage rich in vitamin C. A popular ornamental plant called Yaupon, a variety of holly, can also be used to make a tea rich in caffeine and antioxidants. Be careful to avoid the lookalike plants, though. Not all are safe.
This report has been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.