A Detailed Guide to Antioxidants | Health and nutrition

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You’ve probably seen the word “antioxidant” referenced hundreds of times in food and nutrition articles and advertisements. A Google search for the term generates 132 million astounding results. But what exactly are antioxidants, how are they beneficial for your health, and what are the best ways to get them? Here is an introduction to the basics of antioxidants.

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are molecules found in the body and found in plant-based foods that counteract oxidative stress. In a nutshell, oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to counter their harmful effects.

Free radicals are formed as a byproduct of normal metabolism and in response to exercise, sun exposure, and environmental pollutants like smog and cigarette smoke. The oxidative stress triggered by free radicals damages healthy cells and is thought to play a role in various diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease. Oxidative stress also negatively affects aging.

Antioxidants basically serve as bodyguards to protect healthy cells from free radical attack. In doing so, they help maintain proper physiological function and protect your health.

Advantages

Antioxidants can protect against cell damage caused by free radicals, known as oxidative stress. Activities and processes that can lead to oxidative stress include:

• mitochondrial activity

• excessive exercise

• tissue trauma, due to inflammation and injury

• ischemia and reperfusion damage

• consumption of certain foods, especially refined and processed foods, trans fats, artificial sweeteners and certain colors and additives

• to smoke

• environmental pollution

• radiation

• exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and drugs, including chemotherapy

• industrial solvents

• ozone

Such activities and exposures can damage cells. This, in turn, can lead to:

• excessive release of free iron or copper ions

• activation of phagocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a role in fighting infections

• an increase in enzymes that generate free radicals

• a disruption of electron transport chains

All of this can lead to oxidative stress. Damage from oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, atherosclerosis, and vision loss. It is believed that free radicals cause changes in cells that lead to these conditions and possibly others. It is believed that an intake of antioxidants reduces these risks.

Main sources

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of substances that act as antioxidants, from vitamin C to flavonoids and polyphenols. A wide range of plant-based foods provide antioxidants, so they’re easy to find. Some of the main sources include berries, cocoa, herbs and spices, beans, artichokes, apples, nuts and seeds, cherries, dark leafy greens, coffee and tea, whole grains , grapes, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes, avocado and pomegranate. . There are also high dose antioxidant supplements, but they are not the best way to protect your body. So, the best way to consume antioxidants is to consume whole, plant-based foods.

How to increase your antioxidant intake

To absorb a wider spectrum of antioxidants, as well as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, aim for a variety of plant-based food groups in different colors. Experts advise incorporating five cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit into daily meals. For example, include a cup of vegetables for breakfast, two for lunch, and two for dinner, in addition to a cup of fruit for breakfast and another as part of a daily snack.

Another way to increase your antioxidant intake is to replace processed foods with whole, plant-based foods. Swap a breakfast pastry for a bowl of zoats (zucchini porridge) topped with fruit and nuts. Instead of a sandwich or wrap, opt for a bowl made with a generous base of greens topped with beans, brown rice and seasoned guacamole. Nibble on fruits with nuts or seeds, or vegetables with hummus. Satisfy your sweet tooth with dark chocolate. Sprinkle cinnamon in your morning coffee and infuse water or tea with antioxidant-rich herbs and pieces of fruit. It is impossible to absorb too many antioxidants from whole foods. Plus, choosing foods rich in antioxidants can improve the overall nutritional quality of your diet.

At the end of the line

Antioxidants are an important aspect of proactive nutrition and can help fight aging and chronic disease. For these reasons, they can help you look and feel better. But antioxidants are not a cure-all, and they shouldn’t be used in supplement form to treat a medical problem without your doctor’s supervision. To get the most benefits from antioxidants, buy them from whole foods or from whole food ingredient products – this is also the most delicious and satisfying way to get your daily dose.


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