Antioxidants are chemical compounds that prevent oxidation processes and, therefore, chemical processes that occur in food during contact with oxygen, high temperature or light. Antioxidants work by inhibiting the action of free radicals and, as a consequence, protecting cells. The most popular and widely studied antioxidants are vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, but there are many more. Find out about the sources of antioxidants in food and how they work for the human body.
Antioxidants – why do we need them?
Free radicals, occurring in everybody, become harmful to health only after reaching an excessive concentration, called oxidative stress. The amount of free radicals in the human body depends on exposure to environmental pollution, tobacco smoke, solar radiation, but also on stress, excessive consumption of alcohol or the use of the wrong diet. Oxidative stress damages the cells of blood vessels, as well as white blood cells, which in turn leads to the formation of many diseases. It is believed that free radicals are responsible for the faster aging of the body, and also cause the development of:
diseases of the nervous system
hypertension and heart attacks
Proper supply of products rich in antioxidants in the daily diet is, therefore, necessary to minimize the risk of the above-mentioned diseases and enjoy the health and young, radiant appearance as long as possible. The effect of antioxidants can be easily illustrated by the example of an apple: if we choose the fruit depriving it of the protective layer which is the skin, it will darken quickly. This is due to exposure to oxygen and cell oxidation. We can prevent this process by condensing the apple with lemon juice, which is rich in vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant.
Types of antioxidants and their sources in food
Below is a list of antioxidants and tips on what foods we can find them. Try to introduce these products regularly into the menu.
Beta-carotene – found in yellow-orange and dark green vegetables and fruits; these are among others kale, beetroot leaves, spinach, parsley, basil, papaya, apricot, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin.
Vitamin C – citruses, rose fruits, peppers, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage).
Vitamin E – vegetable oils used cold, nuts, wheat germ, spinach, kale, mango, oats.
Tocopherol – nuts, sunflower seeds, soy, corn.
Selenium – onion, garlic, mushrooms, wheat germs, rice.
Lutein – spinach, corn.
Herbs (both fresh and dried) – rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, marjoram, mustard, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, curry, nutmeg, caraway, white pepper, chili, pepper.
Catechins – green tea.
Lycopene – tomatoes and tomato preserves.
Resveratrol – dry red wine
Bitter cocoa and bitter chocolate
Fruit – currants, dark grapes, chokeberry, wild rose, blueberries, pears, cranberries, plums, apples, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate, strawberries.
Pips and grains – sunflower, soy, sesame
Nuts – pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds.
There are also antioxidants artificially made by man. Due to technological progress, it is possible to create equally valuable and effective substances – they are therefore called identical to natural ones. They are widely used as food additives and are marked in the product composition as E300- E302, E304, E306-E311, E320-E321. They occur in jams, sausages, broths, oils, and margarine (to avoid rancidity), peanut butter, dried fruit.
Demand for antioxidants
The demand for antioxidants increases with age – the longer the exposure to oxidative stress factors mentioned in the article. It is important that along with the aging process of the body, not only increase the number of antioxidant products in the daily diet but also use the whole range of these products – unfortunately, wine and dark chocolate are not enough …
A serious shortage of antioxidants may be manifested by nosebleeds, body swelling or hemorrhoids. If this situation occurs, please consult your doctor.