Natural antioxidants: what are they for?

Antioxidants are the weapon that our body uses to fight free radicals, bitter enemies of cellular well-being. That’s why stock up.

Antioxidants are the weapon that our body uses to counteract free radicals, bitter enemies of cellular well-being. That’s why stock up.

They fight the effects of free radicals, real enemies of the health of the cells and the whole organism. Generated by the body as a result of numerous biochemical reactions, radicals are very reactive molecules (or atoms) that damage cellular structures through the oxidation of cell components, such as membrane fats, sugars, phosphates, proteins and DNA itself.

To be able to eliminate them, cells have their own antioxidant mechanism, but sometimes it is not enough. For example, when large amounts of free radicals are present in the body.

Free radicals accumulate when we eat too much protein and saturated fat, in the body of those who have the habit of smoking cigarettes, if we are exposed to solar radiation for too long and in some pathological conditions such as inflammatory states and diabetes.

Vitamins and other allies

When the cells’ defenses are not sufficient, you can give them a hand by taking the natural antioxidants contained in foods or supplements.

The main ones are vitamins (A, B, C and E), carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols in general, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid and some trace elements, such as seleniummanganesecopper and zinc, which help the functions of antioxidant enzymes produced by the body.

Most of these allies are found in foods of plant origin, first of all grape juice, blueberry and green cabbage. Other important sources are spinach, beetroot, blackberries, plums, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit and orange juice, strawberries, plums, kiwis, grapes, avocados and potatoes.

Meat, dairy products, butter and eggs are also sources of powerful natural antioxidants, especially vitamins A and E, coenzyme Q10, selenium, copper and zinc.

Prevention at your fingertips

It is easy, therefore, to increase the availability of antioxidants through food. And it can help prevent premature aging of cells and the onset of various diseases.

Filling up on vitamin E, carotenoids, coenzyme Q10 and polyphenols can protect us, for example, from heart and coronary problems caused by atherosclerosis, a process that damages the arteries and is triggered, among other things, by free radicals.

Stocking up on polyphenols can help us keep tumors away, because these substances protect DNA from damage that can predispose to the onset of cancer.

Vitamin C and vitamin E also prevent the development of cataracts and protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays present in solar radiation, which over time damage the skin causing premature aging, and other alterations that can degenerate into malignant forms.

Finally, antioxidants can counteract oxidative stress that seems to underlie several diseases.

How much and when

Experts recommend eating at least five servings of fresh fruit or vegetables every day, simultaneously reducing the amount of calories consumed and the consumption of fat, salt, fried foods, cold cuts and grilled meats. In some cases, supplementation with supplements may be used.

Antioxidant intake is especially important in pregnant women, infants and children, and the elderly. Athletes should also pay attention to introducing adequate amounts, because high physical exertion and the accumulation and disposal of lactic acid from the muscles contribute to increasing the presence of free radicals.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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