What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that help prevent the oxidation of certain chemicals, and thus reduce the production of free radicals which can "spoil" our cells if they are in excess in our body.
The Benefits of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are found mainly in fruits and vegetables, and many studies have proven their health benefits. Here are some of the major benefits of antioxidants:
- They lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease: As we explained earlier, antioxidants help fight against free radicals. But they also prevent the oxidation of fats which can be harmful to blood vessels.The family of antioxidants include carotenoids (found in foods with yellow, orange or red colors, such as oranges, peppers, tomatoes, peaches, mangoes, papayas, ...), which according to some studies would decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood. Consumption of these rich in carotenoids foods limits the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- They are preventing cancer: If fruits and vegetables are so popular as benefactors and presenters of health, it is not for nothing! And one of the reasons are antioxidant nutrients, if consumed in sufficient quantities, they would reduce the risk of cancer by more than 30%.
- Antioxidants protect the eyes: Generally, all antioxidant molecules are protective of the eyes and vision. Among them are the carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. Indeed, according to a recent study the consumption of foods rich in zeaxanthin (found in corn and cauliflower) reduce by 93% the risk of AMD( age-related macular degeneration) and by 47% the occurrence of cataract. Lutein (found in egg yolk, carrots, oranges, spinach) would also reduce by 69% the risk of AMD.
- Countering the effects of pollution: The air we breathe is often polluted with powerful oxidants such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone, which can lead to respiratory problems.Studies have shown that some antioxidant nutrients (especially vitamin E and beta-carotene) allow to greatly reduce the oxidation of these harmful molecules.
- Delaying aging process: Free radicals are harmful to skin and couse aging. When they are too many in the body, free radicals attack cell membranes. The result is that: the skin deteriorates, brakes and gets wrinkles prematurely. But again, antioxidants can help limit the damage, in particular those contained in green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, spinach), or in the dark fruits (plums, raspberries, gooseberries ...).
But sometimes the can be dangerous ...
While many studies support antioxidants, some other studies have shown that excessive intake of certain dietary supplements rich in antioxidants (including vitamin A or its derivatives) could be dangerous. So before taking dietary supplements (especially for a long time or in high doses), it is advisable to seek advice from your doctor especially if you suffer from a specific condition.
Where can you find them?
There are actually two types of antioxidants. The endogenous type is already present in the body, and exogenous is made by certain foods.
To measure the concentration of antioxidants in food, specialists are using the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) method.
The recommended daily intake is between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC units. To give you an idea of what it is, here is a summary of the concentration unit ORAC (per 100 g) of the richest fruits:
- Cranberries = 9584
- Blueberries = 2400
- Mature = 2036
- Prunes = 1800
- Strawberries = 1540
- Raspberries = 1220
Many vegetables are also have rich concentrations of antioxidants, like cabbage, spinach, broccoli, tomato, garlic, asparagus ...
And here is one healthy juice recipe idea, it is ultra-fast for preparation and is full of vitamins and antioxidants:
Mix together and blend to juice 10 large strawberries, 3 bunches of currants, cassis and a handful of quarter melon. Serve chilled and drink at will! Enjoy!