We have been hearing for several years that antioxidants are very good for our health. They are the elixir for long life as they keep us young and help in the prevention of tumors. We can find them in certain foods, supplements, drinks and even in cosmetics such as anti-ageing creams.
Perhaps not everyone knows what they are, how they work biologically/chemically and the key function they perform in the cell and at the DNA level.
It is scientifically true and proven that antioxidants are chemicals (molecules, ions, radicals) or physical agents that slow down and prevent the oxidation of other substances. The chemical reaction of oxidation involves the transport of electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent.
Oxidation in chemistry is the production of molecules called free radicals (chemicals) that can damage or even kill cells. Oxidation reactions occur naturally in nature but must be compensated by the action of antioxidants.
What are the main antioxidants?
Vitamin C (fruits and vegetables), vitamin E (vegetable oils), polyphenolic antioxidants (tea, coffee, soy, fruit, olive oil), carotenoids (fruits and vegetables). Prolonged lack of antioxidants can facilitate/cause the development of many diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, central nervous system pathologies, diabetes, joint and skin problem.
Now let’s imagine entering a cell.
Inside the cell there are molecules (substances) that work to block oxidation processes from DNA, proteins and lipids.
A lack of antioxidants can also cause serious damage to DNA, such as gene mutations (gene alterations) and consequently tumors. The DNA repair system steps in to repair DNA errors caused by oxidative processes, but it doesn’t always work well especially if the oxidative damage is very high. Oxidation which can damage cellular proteins, can also destroy parts of the cell and inhibit biological processes which are fundamental to the life of the cell itself.
Antioxidants can then be defined as cell protectors which are present in cells. They are synthesized directly by the body, and they are also taken with daily nutrition.
What kind of diet and lifestyle permit antioxidants to contribute to our health?
Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables but also to whole grains, dried fruits, shellfish, legumes, and fish (anchovies, tuna, salmon).
Regarding ‘Normalismo‘, which has been introduced by Oncology and Food, you do not have to resort to extremism, looking for antioxidants in particular products which can be expensive, and difficult to find.
Ministry of Health indicates that an excessive intake of vitamins and minerals is harmful to our health. Always eat healthy food without exaggeration and be wary of products which are advertised as being miraculous.
Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables and at the same time, limit the consumption of fats and sugars.
Take moderate but constant physical activity, avoid heavy smoking and alcohol, protect yourself from sunlight, limit stress as much as possible, reduce the formation of free radicals and ensure an adequate supply of antioxidants that are good for your health.