Antioxidants: effects on the body and natural sources

Much has been said about antioxidants and the beneficial effects they cause in the body, especially in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as cancer, atherosclerosis, heart and neurodegenerative diseases. However, not everyone knows what antioxidants are and how they can be beneficial to the body. In addition, it is also important to know the natural sources of these compounds and how we can consume them in our daily lives. Learn about the action of these molecules in the human body and which foods rich in natural antioxidants should be added to our diet.

Action of antioxidants in the human body

To understand the action of antioxidants, it is first important to know what free radicals are. Free radicals are highly reactive oxidizing molecules that are naturally produced by the human body, such as during breathing or physical activity. The problem is that they end up injuring cells and can lead to chronic inflammatory processes and even cell death. Although free radicals are naturally produced, there are factors that greatly increase their amount, such as stress, cigarettes, alcohol intake and foods high in fat and sugar.

The function of antioxidants is to capture free radicals and prevent these molecules from being released in the body, damaging cells. With this, antioxidants prevent the diseases that are caused by this cellular damage, in addition to improving the health of the immune system.

Antioxidant molecules fall into two categories: hydrophilic (water-soluble) antioxidants and lipophilic (lipid-soluble) antioxidants. The intake of both classes of antioxidants is important to remove free radicals that are both in the body’s aqueous environment and in the lipid environment. Some examples of antioxidant molecules are beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, polyphenols and flavonoids.

Antioxidant-rich foods

The foods richest in antioxidants are vegetables. Many contain both hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants. See a list of foods rich in these molecules

– Red fruits: fruits such as blackberries , blueberries , strawberries and raspberries are an excellent source of polyphenols. Other fruits with high antioxidant content are pomegranates , grapes, plums , cherries and apples.

– Carrot: Carrot is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a lipophilic antioxidant that removes free radicals from lipids. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, another important antioxidant. Orange-colored foods are rich sources of beta-carotene and vitamin A , such as apricots, peaches, squash, beetroot , papaya, mango and sweet potato. Other important sources are dark leafy greens like kale , broccoli , watercress and spinach .

– Brazil nuts: this oilseed fruit is rich in selenium . Research points to the beneficial effect of this nut in the prevention of prostate cancer due to its antioxidant content. It is recommended to consume 1 to 2 chestnuts per day.

– Nuts: Nuts and other oleaginous fruits are a source of vitamin E , a lipophilic antioxidant. Vitamin E is also called tocopherol and is one of the most important antioxidants for the cell as it protects the lipids of the cell membrane against free radicals. Other foods rich in vitamin E are dark green vegetables (broccoli, watercress, spinach, kale), vegetable oils (soybean oil, sesame oil, olive oil), wheat germ, egg and liver.

– Citrus fruits: orange, lemon , grapefruit, lime and acerola are sources of vitamin C , one of the most important hydrophilic antioxidants. In addition to its antioxidant action, vitamin C plays an important role in collagen production. Other important sources of this nutrient are tomatoes, guava, melons, strawberries, papaya, mango, kiwi, broccoli and mango.

– Green tea : Green tea is rich in catechins, a polyphenolic antioxidant. Studies suggest a beneficial effect of green tea on chronic diseases such as diabetes , inflammation, cancer and aging. Other teas that also contain catechins are black tea and white tea.

– Grape and derivatives: grape juice and the fruit itself are sources of a powerful antioxidant, resveratrol, from the family of polyphenolic antioxidants. However, some studies are contradictory regarding the effect of this molecule. While some studies show that taking resveratrol prevents heart disease, improves cholesterol levels and improves blood vessel health, other studies say that resveratrol has no impact on health.

In addition to these, there are several foods that are excellent sources of antioxidants. It is best to have a balanced diet, rich in vegetables, leafy greens, fruits and whole grains, and low in refined sugar, saturated fats and alcohol.

Excess consumption of antioxidants

Many people think that consuming too many antioxidants is good for them. However, recent studies indicate that the consumption of food supplements rich in antioxidants can be harmful to health and even increase mortality. In addition, the excess of antioxidants in the body decreases the amount of vasodilator substances that help maintain the health of the veins and arteries. Excess consumption of lipophilic vitamins (such as vitamin E and A) can also cause liver problems. The best recommendation is to have a balanced and balanced diet. If you have doubts about whether your consumption of vitamins and antioxidants is adequate, consult a nutritionist.

Also Read: 10 Foods Rich in Flavonoids

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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