Antioxidants are the word that we hear constantly, but very few people know what they are or how they work. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow cell damage caused by free radicals and unstable molecules that the body produces in response to environmental or other stresses. The sources of antioxidants can be natural or manufactured since many plant foods are rich in antioxidants. This article tells you everything you need to know about antioxidants.
Table of contents
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in the body and free radicals are compounds that cause damage when their levels become too high in the body. They are associated with many diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The human body has its own antioxidant defenses that work to keep free radicals underneath. Control, in addition to this, antioxidants are also found in food, especially in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods of plant origin, such as whole grains, and many vitamins such as vitamins E and C are considered effective antioxidants. Antioxidant preservatives also play an important role in food production by increasing the shelf life of foods.
How do free radicals work?
Free radicals are formed continuously in the body, and without the presence of antioxidants, free radicals cause serious damage in the body in a very short time, which ultimately causes death. On the other hand, free radicals have important and essential functions for health. For example, immune cells use free radicals to fight infection. As a result, the body needs to maintain a certain balance between free radicals and antioxidants. When the number of free radicals exceeds the number of antioxidants, this can lead to a condition called oxidative stress, and prolonged oxidative stress can damage DNA and other important molecules in the body. Sometimes it leads to cell death, while DNA damage increases the risk of cancer, and some scientists have assumed that it plays a pivotal role in the aging process.
Lifestyle and stress, as well as environmental factors, are all known to increase the formation of free radicals in the body and cause oxidative stress, including:
- air pollution.
- cigarette smoke.
- Alcohol intake.
- Various types of toxins.
- High blood sugar levels.
- Eat high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Radiation, including increased exposure to sunlight (sunbathing).
- Bacterial, fungal or viral infections.
- Excessive intake of iron, magnesium, copper or zinc.
- Excessively high or low oxygen levels in the body.
- Excessive, intense and prolonged exercise resulting in tissue damage.
- Increase in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.
- Lack of antioxidants.
Prolonged oxidative stress increases the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Antioxidants in foods
Antioxidants are essential for the survival of all living things, the human body generates its own antioxidants such as the cellular antioxidant glutathione, as well as plants, animals and all other organisms have their own defenses against free radicals, so antioxidants are found in all whole foods of plant or animal origin. It is very important to eat enough antioxidants, in fact your life depends on consuming some antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.
We always hear about the importance of including plant foods in our daily diet.The health benefits associated with a diet rich in plants are due to the variety of antioxidants they provide, as berries, green tea and coffee in addition to dark chocolate are known to be good sources of antioxidants, according to some studies. Coffee is the single largest source of antioxidants in the adult diet, but coffee alone does not meet the daily needs of the body because the average person does not eat many other foods rich in antioxidants. Meat and fish products also contain antioxidants, but to a lesser extent than fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants are also used in the manufacture of canned foods. Antioxidants can increase the shelf life of both natural and processed foods. Therefore, they are frequently used as food additives, for example vitamin C is often added to processed foods to act as a preservative.
Types of food antioxidants
Antioxidants can be classified into two types that are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble antioxidants work in and out of the intracellular fluid, while lipid-soluble antioxidants work primarily in cell membranes.
Important nutritional antioxidants include:
- Vitamin C: a water-soluble antioxidant that is one of the most important nutrients for the human body.
- Vitamin E: It is a fat-soluble antioxidant that plays an important role in protecting cell membranes from oxidation.
- Flavonoids: A group of plant antioxidants with many beneficial health functions.
- As well as vitamin A, beta-carotene, selenium, manganese, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Some foods rich in antioxidants
Dark chocolate is delicious, nutritious, and one of the best sources of antioxidants. In general, the higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants the chocolate contains.
Pecan nuts are a popular nuts rich in minerals and healthy fats, as well as antioxidants, they also help raise levels of antioxidants in the blood and lower harmful cholesterol.
Cranberry or blueberry
Cranberries or blueberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants that the diet can contain. They are rich in anthocyanins and other antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and delay the decline in brain function that occurs with age.
Like other berries, strawberries are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Artichoke is one of the vegetables with the highest levels of antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid. Their antioxidant content can vary based on how they’re prepared.
Raspberry (raspberry) is nutritious, delicious and full of antioxidants, like blueberries are rich in anthocyanins and have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
It is a type of cabbage and is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet, due to the fact that it is rich in antioxidants. Although regular cabbage is rich in antioxidants, the red types may contain nearly twice.
Red cabbage is a delicious way to increase your antioxidant intake. Its red color comes from its high content of anthocyanins, which are a group of antioxidants that have been linked to many wonderful health benefits.
Beans are an inexpensive way to obtain antioxidants, and they also contain the antioxidant kaempferol, which has been linked in several laboratory studies with anti-cancer benefits.
Spinach is a low-calorie vegetable rich in various nutrients, especially antioxidants, and it is also one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin that protect the eyes from free radicals.
As well as apples, broccoli, lentils, eggplant, green and black tea, red grapes, pomegranate, capsicum, papaya, mango, carrots and green leafy vegetables in general all foods rich in antioxidants.
The effect of cooking on food antioxidant levels
Cooking certain foods can increase or decrease levels of antioxidants. For example, lycopene is one of the antioxidants that gives tomatoes their rich red color, and when tomatoes are cooked with heat, lycopene becomes more available (easier for our bodies to process and use). On the other hand, studies have shown that cauliflower, peas, and zucchini lose much of their antioxidant activity after the cooking process.
Keep in mind that what is important is to eat a variety of foods rich in antioxidants, cooked and raw.
Should you take antioxidant supplements?
Eating antioxidants is essential for optimal health, but more does not mean better results. Excessive intake of isolated antioxidants can have toxic effects and may enhance oxidative damage instead of preventing it, a phenomenon called the “antioxidant paradox” where some studies indicate that higher doses Antioxidants increase the risk of death, which is why most health professionals advise avoiding high-dose antioxidant supplements, but we still need more studies before reaching strong conclusions.
Eating more foods rich in antioxidants is a much better way than taking supplements, as studies show that foods reduce oxidative damage to a greater degree than supplementation, so the best way to ensure you get enough antioxidants is to include various vegetables and fruits in large quantities into your diet. Besides sticking to other healthy habits, however, supplements that contain low doses of antioxidants such as multivitamin may be beneficial if you are deficient in certain nutrients or are unable to follow a healthy diet.
Some tips to increase your daily dose of antioxidants
The following tips can help increase the amount of antioxidants you take in:
- Include fruits or vegetables in every meal you eat.
- Have a cup of green or red tea daily.
- Look at the colors on your plate. If your food is predominantly brown or beige, it likely has low levels of antioxidants, so add foods with strong colors such as kale, tomatoes and berries.
- Use turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, cloves and cinnamon as spices that add flavor to your meals in addition to their antioxidant content.
- Snack on nuts and seeds, especially sunflower seeds, and dried fruits, but choose those that do not contain added sugar or salt.
Eating an adequate amount of antioxidants is essential to maintaining a healthy body, and the best strategy for getting your daily dose of antioxidants is to eat healthy plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, as some studies indicate that high-dose supplements may be harmful.
12 healthy foods rich in antioxidants – Healthline