A balanced diet rich in natural antioxidant foods can counteract the action of free radicals. Antioxidants and free radicals are terms often cited together, but what exactly are they? The natural antioxidants are internally or assumed -prodotte outside- substances that the body uses to deal with the damage caused by free radicals.
To function our body puts in place a series of chemical and metabolic reactions. These processes generate “waste”, free radicals, which damage the cellular structures with which they come into contact by oxidizing them. The characteristic of free radicals is that of being devoid of one or more electrons. To bridge this deficiency, they trigger reactions with other molecules in order to subtract the missing electrons from them. Here the oxidation process takes place; the role of antioxidants is to supply electrons to free radicals, preventing cell oxidation. The antioxidant substances can, therefore, inhibit the formation and action of free radicals.
The oxidation process promotes, for example, cellular aging, inflammation, and malfunctioning of the immune system. It has also been linked to the onset of some cancers and cardiovascular and chronic degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis.
The cells are able to implement a defense against free radicals, but when they accumulate it may not be enough. In fact, free radicals are formed also the following exposure to particular environmental factors: sun, smoke, some drugs, persistent exposure to pollution, excess alcohol, or even a diet too rich in fat and protein.
But what are the antioxidant elements? Some antioxidant elements are already present in the body, others must be taken with food. The first group includes substances such as bilirubin, some enzymes, and molecules such as transferrin, ferritin and albumin and coenzyme Q10.
Others are to be taken through the diet: vitamins (especially A, C, E), trace elements (selenium, copper, zinc, manganese) and vegetable polyphenols (resveratrol, flavonoids).
To ensure the necessary intake of foods rich in natural antioxidants in most cases it is sufficient to follow a varied diet, consume vegetables and fruit daily (at least five portions a day) possibly raw or with quick and light cooking, seasoned with olive oil.
Natural antioxidants, where are they?
Very colorful vegetables and fruits are generally foods rich in natural antioxidants, as well as legumes, seeds, whole grains, tea, cocoa coffee, and red wine.
The main food sources of antioxidant substances useful to our body:
Vitamin A: plant foods, yellow/orange colored like pumpkins, melon, carrots, apricots, peppers, liver, eggs, butter, milk and fish
Polyphenols: dark fruits: red and blue / violet like blueberries, raspberries, currants, blackberries, strawberries, grapes
Vitamin E: seeds, nuts, shelled germ, wheat germ, and brown rice, vegetable oils (olive, soy, corn, sunflower oil)
Vitamin C: blackcurrant citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, green leafy vegetables, offal
Manganese: wheat germ, bran, and dried fruit, tea
Zinc: meat, fish, eggs, milk and derivatives, wheat bran, legumes, and dried fruit
Copper: meat, offal, shellfish and crustaceans, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, legumes.
Selenium: fish, poultry, meat, milk, eggs, dried fruit. The plant content depends on the selenium content in the soil in which they were grown.