What are the antioxidants?
Antioxidants are natural substances found mainly in vegetables, fruits, nuts and spices that help prevent or reduce the oxidation that occurs at the cellular level. To do this, they eliminate "free radicals" that, if left alone, could oxidize cells, resulting in inflammation and chronic diseases such as diabetes, joint disease, atherosclerosis, cancer, dementia and degenerative diseases of sight. These harmful chemicals also accelerate the aging process.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron in the outer shell of an atom. Chemically unstable, they are very reactive and able to damage the cells of the body. Some researchers believe that aging occurs because cells accumulate free radical damage over time.
The main factors contributing to the excess of free radicals in the body are poor diet, stress, pollutants, smoking, overexposure to ultraviolet and harmful bacteria.
Taking certain prescription drugs and chemotherapy are also related to the formation of free radicals in the body.
Foods rich in free radicals include oils and fats (when heated at high temperatures, such as when frying), overcooked meats and processed meats.
Consuming too much sugary foods resulting in increased blood sugar could also result in an increase of this harmful chemical in the body.
How do antioxidants prevent chronic diseases and aging?
Antioxidants prevent aging by neutralizing and eliminating free radicals in the body responsible for damage to body tissues. In doing so, they help prevent or slow down the impact of chronic diseases and the aging process.
Are all antioxidants the same?
Although the chemical role of antioxidants in the body is quite similar, some antioxidants are known to provide additional benefits to specific parts of the body. For example: flavonoids protect the heart; beta-carotene protects the eyes; lycopene benefits the prostate gland; and, proanthocyanidin contributes to the health of the urinary tract
It is also well established that some antioxidants have a stronger action than others. For example, the food astaxanthin would be 500 times more potent than vitamin E.
Sources of antioxidants
Food sources for antioxidants are:
a) Vegetables – carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, kale, antichoke, sweet potatoes, beetroot and coriander
b) fruits – blue berries, grapes, cranberries, elderberries, blackberries, watermelon, goji and citrus fruits
c) Nuts and seeds – pecan nuts, walnuts, peanuts, red beans and flax seeds
d) drinks – red wine, green tea, cocoa
e) spices – clove, turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, basil and ginger
The foods listed above are not exhaustive but indicate the most popular foods that are rich in antioxidants.
Vitamins A, C and E are among the well-known antioxidants, while selenium, zinc and copper micronutrients are known to support the antioxidant system in the body.
Other antioxidants that are popular for their health benefits include:
a) Curcumin– protection against cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and arthritis
b) CoQ10 – helps people with heart problems, Parkinson's disease, hypertension and chronic fatigue syndrome.
c) glutathione – Helps the body to produce enzymes, detoxify, digest fats and destroy cancer cells.
re) Lutein and zeaxanthin – prevents cataracts and degeneration of the macula
e) Quecetin– supports the heart, fights chronic fatigue syndrome and arthritis
F) astaxanthin– reduces the chronic effect of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure
Are supplements needed?
Getting antioxidants from natural sources is best because of the complex blend of phytonutrients that you can get from fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices that you may not get with supplements. However, if obtaining these natural nutrients from natural sources poses a problem or if specific antioxidants are needed to manage certain health problems, supplements can still prove to be very helpful.
I hope this article has given you a good overview of antioxidants and the role they play in preventing and curing chronic diseases.