Antioxidants have the function of stopping oxidation reactions and this occurs both in foods and in living organisms.
Antioxidants are molecules that, as their name indicates, inhibit, reduce or hinder oxidation reactions. The paradox of oxidation is that we need oxygen to live and oxidation reactions are part of our metabolism and are necessary for our life. However, oxygen is a molecule that generates reactive species such as free radicals that cause oxidative damage to living beings. For this reason, organisms have a complex network of metabolites and antioxidant enzymes to prevent oxidative damage that can be generated in our cells, whether at the level of DNA, lipids, proteins.
What is Oxidation?
Oxidation is a general term that refers to a series of chemical reactions that can occur in both living organisms and foods and are divided into three main stages:
Initiation: Occurs due to the instability of some molecules and because some factors favor the triggering of a series of reactions that produce the first free radical. For example, in an oil, light, heat, contact with metal ions, etc. act as pro-oxidant factors. In the skin, oxidative stress is promoted by ultraviolet radiation, race, lifestyle habits, way of dressing, etc.
Propagation: This free radical in contact with oxygen would influence another molecule, generating another free radical and forming a chain reaction that would evolve, degrading the product or tissue in question, unless some antioxidant stops this evolution.
Termination: It can occur due to the evolution of oxidation (which leads to the degradation of the product or tissue) or due to the action of antioxidants that have slowed down the cascade of oxidation reactions, protecting the tissue.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit or interfere with the formation process of free radicals, during the initiation and propagation stages. Antioxidants can be classified according to their origin, such as artificial or synthetic and natural. They may be effective separately, but the combination of two or more produces a reinforced action. This synergistic effect between antioxidants is widely exploited by the food industry.
Types of Antioxidants
To maintain life we need a minimum level of energy and nutrients to cover our normal functions. Furthermore, to maintain health we require extra to deal with possible environmental aggressions. This plus means what we provide to our body through healthy lifestyle habits, fundamentally referring to food, physical exercise and stress level. If what we want is to achieve a minimum impact of the passage of time on our body, we must take care of ourselves at all levels, and in terms of nutrition this involves eating a varied, balanced diet, sufficient but without excesses and with an adequate supply of minerals, vitamins and substances, bioactive with beneficial properties.
Antioxidants have the function of stopping oxidation reactions and this occurs both in foods and in living organisms. To stop these reactions at the food industry level, synthetic antioxidants and combinations of antioxidants are used, but we will focus on the antioxidants that we can take naturally with food and that can contribute to a better state of health and a possible anti-aging effect. We will highlight some antioxidants:
They are yellow-orange and reddish pigments that we find in the plant world, although we also find them in green leafy vegetables. The most studied carotenoids are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Beta-carotene is a precursor substance to vitamin A that our body can transform if it needs it. Lutein and zeaxanthin seem to have beneficial properties at the ocular level, while lycopene is considered efficient against free radicals that cause damage, especially to the eyes and skin.
In any case, the antioxidant potential and its positive effects compared to the possible negative effects of supplementation with these compounds is still being studied and in some cases generates contradictory results. Therefore, we must keep in mind that the intake of these elements through food does not pose a risk and is potentially beneficial, but we should not resort to supplementation without the advice and supervision of a professional. We find carotenoids in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard, and in orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkin, mango, loquats, etc.
Tocopherols and tocotrienols
It is a series of substances with vitamin E activity. Vitamin E acts fundamentally as an antioxidant since it stops the proliferation of free radicals, regenerates itself thanks to vitamin C, protects fatty acids from oxidation and maintains the permeability of the cells. cell membranes. It acts at the skin level and is therefore attributed a possible anti-aging effect. They are found in foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids such as olive and sunflower oil, nuts, wheat germ, avocado, the egg yolk.
Ascorbic acid or vitamin C
It has an important role in cellular metabolism and is also attributed a role in the protection of mucous membranes and in the formation of collagen, a molecule related to the elasticity of the skin. Vitamin C acts in synergy with vitamin E, enhancing its antioxidant activity. They are found in parsley, berries, citrus fruits, chives, kiwi, strawberries, peppers and, in general, fruits and vegetables, but they oxidize easily, so to obtain the benefits of vitamin C we must take these foods raw, and keep them in a cool place protected from light.
These compounds are natural from the plant kingdom and are known above all for their antioxidant properties. It is an extensive group of compounds, anthocyanins, tannins, lignins, flavonoids. Anthocyanins are pigments responsible for the reddish and violet color of many fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, cherries, red cabbage, grapes, etc. Tannins give an astringent sensation to foods that contain them; nature uses them primarily as protection since many animals reject this flavor. They are found in a greater proportion in fruits that are still green and decrease with maturation. They are in apples, blackberries, grapes, tea leaves.
Lignins are structural compounds found in plant cell walls. Flavonoids cover many functions in plant organisms and have aroused scientific interest due to their biological activity in humans as antimicrobials, antioxidants, etc. They are found in citrus fruits, bananas, soybeans, peas, licorice, red fruits, grapes, tea, olive oil, cocoa, nuts, soybeans and fruits and vegetables in general.
Menu Rich-In Antioxidants
This menu is an example of how to combine the foods mentioned and in parentheses the main antioxidants provided by the food or preparation are reported. This proposal especially seeks the presence of foods with antioxidants, which does not mean that it is the appropriate diet to follow in any case since it must be adjusted personally.
- Breakfast: A piece of fruit (vitamin C)/green tea (polyphenols)/whole wheat toast with natural tomato and olive oil (carotenoids and vitamin E)
- Mid-morning: A piece of fruit (polyphenols)
- Lunch: Varied green salad with olive oil (carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E)/sautéed turkey cold cuts with soy and green beans with olive oil (polyphenols and vitamin E)/a piece of fruit (polyphenols)
- Mid-afternoon: Individual terrine of fresh cheese with a handful of walnuts (vitamin E and polyphenols)
- Dinner: Cala Baza cream with olive oil (carotenoids and vitamin E)/grilled white fish with chives, parsley and olive oil (vitamin C and vitamin E)/skimmed yogurt with natural raspberries (vitamin C and polyphenols)
Despite taking all these antioxidant foods into account and trying to include them in your diet, MAPFRE Health Insurance offers you a specific service based on nutrition and obesity prevention, among others. Do not hesitate to consult the wide range of coverage of each policy and choose the one that best suits you and your family.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Oxidation includes a series of chemical reactions that can cause cellular damage and can be stopped by antioxidants.
To ensure that the passage of time does the least damage to us, we must take care of our eating habits, sports, stress and provide beneficial substances such as antioxidants.
Antioxidants are mainly found in fresh plant products such as grapes, carrots, citrus fruits, sunflower seeds, nuts, etc.