Antioxidants act like protective shields in our body that fend off attackers and make them harmless. They are therefore able to keep our cells healthy and protect us from diseases.
When Free Radicals Attack Our Cells, Antioxidants Come To The Rescue
Colloquially, we also call antioxidants “radical scavengers” because they combine with so-called harmful free radicals. Thu, they protect our body cells from oxidation and damage. Free radicals are very reactive atoms with an unpaired electron. To complete themselves, free radicals “attack” other substances to capture the missing electron. If, for example, a free radical snatches an electron from a fatty acid in our cell membrane, it damages the body cell. In addition, a chain reaction (the so-called lipid peroxidation) occurs. This forms new free radicals again and again. On a large scale, such reactions can damage our cell membranes and also our genetic material in the cells. In this way, free radicals promote the development of various diseases such as arteriosclerosis, cataracts and cancer.
Where Do Free Radicals Come From?
Our body constantly produces free radicals through metabolic processes. In addition, we take them in through the air and our food. Smoking, UV radiation, stress, and environmental pollution also increasingly produce free radicals. They weaken our immune system and accelerate skin aging – they make us look old in the truest sense of the word. Due to increasing environmental pollution, we are increasingly exposed to the attack of free radicals, which is known as oxidative stress.
Occurrence And Effect Of Antioxidants
The human organism has many enzymes and substances, such as glutathione, which have the ability to combine with free radicals. In addition to the body’s own antioxidants, our food also contains a large number of radical scavengers. These primarily include antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E and beta-carotene. The latter occurs in plant foods, combines with free radicals and dissipates their energy in the form of heat. One can find vitamin E in our cell membranes. It protects the unsaturated fatty acids stored in the cell membrane from free radicals by providing them with one of its electrons and thus rendering them harmless. If the free radical has already attacked a fatty acid, Vitamin E can provide this fatty acid with an electron and thus “repair” the fatty acid again.
Antioxidants Vitamin C And E Work Closely Together
The antioxidant Vitamin C, in turn, provides Vitamin E with an electron if it has already released an electron to a free radical. Vitamin C thus ensures the regeneration of Vitamin E. The trace elements zinc and selenium as well as the secondary plant substances such as polyphenols and phytic acid also have antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants As Food Additives
In addition to the natural occurrence of antioxidants, the food industry also uses radical scavengers as antioxidants in order to extend the shelf life of foods. Here they prevent oxidation, too, i.e. the reaction with oxygen. So they delay undesirable processes in food that have adverse effects on quality, smell, and taste as well as appearance. The food industry uses naturally occurring antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E, as well as synthetically produced antioxidants such as sulfur dioxide, sulfites or phosphates.
Lack Of Vital Radical Scavengers
If we do not supply our body with sufficient antioxidants, the result is a shortage. This can happen if we consume too few vegetables and fruit. Or if we have a disturbed fat digestion, for example as a result of a pancreatic disease. Vitamin E and beta-carotene are among the fat-soluble vitamins. If we cannot properly digest and absorb fat, this often results in a lack of fat-soluble vitamins. One-sided diets can also lead to a lack of antioxidants. Therefore, always strive for a balanced diet. One-sided diets or crash diets should not be carried out over long periods of time.
Antioxidants: Intake Via Dietary Supplements?
It makes more sense to consume plenty of fresh and high-quality food than to take dietary supplements. Nutritional supplements can provide isolated antioxidants, but not the “total package” we find in vegetables and fruit. The nutrient-rich fruits contain numerous secondary plant substances – small miracle weapons against free radicals. No food supplement in the world can even come close to imitating this totality and the interaction of the health-promoting ingredients in real foods.
Tips For An Antioxidant-Rich Nutrition
Many antioxidants sit under the skin of fruits or vegetables. Therefore, if possible, do not peel the fruits, but wash them thoroughly under running water. A varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables supplies you well with secondary plant substances. Experts recommend five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. You should also choose whole grain products, as most antioxidants sit in the outer layers of the grain.
Even with your morning cup of coffee, you will absorb valuable antioxidants. All the more reason to enjoy your coffee! Coffee naturally contains polyphenols, which are also antioxidants. But green tea, red wine or a piece of dark chocolate with a high cocoa content also provide us with antioxidants.
- Vitamin C is found in paprika, oranges, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
- Vitamin E is found in flaxseed, hazelnuts, almonds, and wheat germ oil.
- Beta-carotene is found in colorful vegetables and fruits such as beetroot, spinach, mango, carrots, and kale.
- The trace element zinc is found in meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and whole grain products.
- Good sources of selenium are fish, meat, nuts, legumes, and whole grain cereals.
Eat antioxidants and especially secondary plant compounds with every meal. Fruit and vegetables should correspond to the seasonal offer and come best from open agriculture, then the content and valuable contents materials are particularly high. It is also important to prepare the food gently in order to keep the loss of heat-sensitive secondary plant substances as low as possible. Some of the vegetables are real superfoods! Autumn and winter vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli or kale are brimming with vitamins and antioxidants.
How To Keep Your Body Fit And Healthy With Antioxidants
Supply your body with natural antioxidants and ensure a balanced and vitamin-rich diet. Also, getting enough exercise and relaxation should be high on your list of priorities to reduce oxidative stress in your body.