Antioxidants - Protect Your Health

Tuesday, 29. September 2015

Antioxidants - Protect Your Health

Antioxidants protect the body and support the immune system by trapping free radicals. Therefore antioxidants are considered an anti-aging agent. They prevent oxidative stress, which is the main cause for cell aging. Due to the body being unable to produce antioxidants by itself, these need to be supplied by food sources.

Antioxidants are chemical compounds that specifically prevent the oxidation of other substances. Oxidation processes are familiar to everyone. For example, rust is a result of such processes. These processes take place in the human body during the metabolism process.

Free radicals are formed by these highly reactive oxygen compounds. This can also be caused by the influence of UV radiation, chemicals or pollutants of all kinds. Stress, poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle can also contribute to an increased formation of free radicals. A larger amount of free radicals are what cause oxidative stress, which is responsible for aging, but also for various diseases. Free radicals damage the genetic material, proteins and cells, and can therefore be very dangerous to health.

What can be done about this? The human body first expels certain enzymes, in order to decrease the effect of a large portion of these free radicals, making them harmless. In addition, antioxidants help the body. Their effect can be best explained with an apple and a lemon. If you cut the apple in half, the surface becomes brown after a short period of time, i.e they oxidize. However, when lemon is drizzled on the surface of an apple, this discolouration does not occur, reason being that the lemon contains vitamin C. Lemon is an antioxidant and thus a scavenger.

These antioxidants must be consumed via food. Antioxidants are mainly found in plant foods, therefore it is important to eat fruits and vegetables often, at best five times a day. Thereby, a good supply of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals are guaranteed. If this is not possible, dietary supplements are also an alternative.

Along with the body's defense mechanisms, it offers very good protection against oxidation processes.

The exact effect of the individual antioxidants is not yet fully known, but are considered to prevent cardiovascular diseases, ranging from cancer and other chronic diseases.

Here is a list of known antioxidants in vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin C: The most well-known antioxidant is contained mainly in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamin E: This fat-soluble vitamin is found in vegetable oils, nuts and grains.
  • Beta Carotene: This substance is converted into vitamin A by the body. The yellow and red substance is apparent in carrots, pumpkins, peppers, apricots and mangoes.
  • Selenium: It is mainly found in animal foods. However, it is also contained in the vegetables, potatoes and fruits.
  • Zinc: The zinc requirement for the body is mainly covered by meat and cheese.

There are also a number of phytochemicals that are considered antioxidants:

  • Flavonoids: These are contained in cherries, apples, berries, cabbage, onions, etc..
  • Polyphenols: These are found in green and black tea, but also in the coffee and cocoa beans. Polyphenols are responsible for the red and violet colour of cherries, red cabbage and grapes.

Other substances included are saponins, sulfides and carotenoids found in fruits, vegetables and grains.