Don't skimp on nutrients in diet

Have you ever thought about the consequences of consuming a diet low in nutrients?

Research has shown an association between free radicals and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and cataracts.

What are free radicals?

According to ehow.com and ask.com, free radicals are atoms, ions or molecules that contain one or more unpaired electrons in their outer orbit rather than having matched pairs of electrons. They have an open-shell configuration, which causes them to be unstable and highly reactive with other molecules to achieve stability.

They can damage cell membranes and trigger reactions in your body that cause cancers and other diseases. With proper intervention, you can minimize your risk of free radical damage. Moses Gomberg discovered organic free radicals in 1900.

The human body naturally produces unstable oxygen byproducts called free radicals. Also, free radicals can be produced when the body is exposed to radiation, ultraviolet light, air pollutants or smoking. Free radicals can damage cell membranes, enzymes, other cell components and genetic material.

We can't totally stop this process from occurring, but one thing that helps is consuming a diet rich in antioxidants - compounds that protect the body from free radicals. Nutrients such as vitamin E, vitamin C and vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) function as antioxidants.

Fruits and vegetables are some of the richest sources of these nutrients.

Citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, strawberries, potatoes and broccoli are rich sources of vitamin C.

Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, peaches, sweet potatoes and apricots are rich in beta-carotene, as are spinach, chard, kale, beet greens and turnip greens.

Excellent sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, margarine, nuts and whole grains.

The more colorful our food is, usually the healthier it will be for us. If you find your diet consisting of foods that are all the same color - for example, golden brown - try adding these different colored fruits and vegetables to boost your nutrients.