Antioxidants: what are they and where do you get them?

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Antioxidants have benefits that you have already heard about, although you may still have doubts about what the antioxidant effect means, what benefits they produce and how you can obtain them in your daily life. This information will quickly put you in touch with these benefits.

Roberta, a woman of 40 years, had been in a period of intense work, with many activities all day, smoked more than necessary, did not eat well and had little time to rest. After 6 weeks she felt exhausted, her skin was dehydrated and dark circles were seen under tired eyes, in fact she looked older. I knew I should do something to improve, because this work period would not end soon, so I thought about using antioxidants, but what are antioxidants? she asked herself. What will they do for me? and if they serve me, how should I take them? Do I need a recipe?

We know that antioxidants prevent “oxidation”, but the oxidation of what?

It is known that cells require oxygen to perform their vital functions, contact with this molecule causes a phenomenon called oxidation, which is the union of oxygen or some other molecule such as nitrogen, chlorine, or bromine, to receptor molecules, which are they will turn into free radicals. All these chemical reactions occur and free radicals are important because they help in certain processes that the cell needs to perform to live, acting as mediators or physiological regulators, for this reason they are kept in a tight balance, which allows that despite these substances exist normally, no harm occurs. But when the balance is broken and we have an excess of free radicals, then the damage caused to the cells and consequently to the tissues, will occur irreversibly. The damage occurs in structural molecules of the cell, causing loss of the functions of enzymes, changes in signaling, particularly in genetic information because it affects the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which affects genetic information and therefore cell division , developing alterations in tissues, cell descendants, acting as a mechanism of aging of tissues, skin, heart muscle, pancreas and in general, of all tissues, favoring the onset of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and occurrence of cancer. In addition to promoting cell death or apoptosis (programmed cell death). in particular in the genetic information because it affects the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) which affects the genetic information and therefore the cell division, developing alterations in the tissues, the cell descendants, acting as a mechanism of aging of the tissues, skin, muscle cardiac, pancreas and in general, of all tissues, favoring the onset of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and cancer. In addition to promoting cell death or apoptosis (programmed cell death). in particular in the genetic information because it affects the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) which affects the genetic information and therefore the cell division, developing alterations in the tissues, the cell descendants, acting as a mechanism of aging of the tissues, skin, muscle cardiac, pancreas and in general, of all tissues, favoring the onset of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and cancer. In addition to promoting cell death or apoptosis (programmed cell death). of all tissues, favoring the onset of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and the appearance of cancer. In addition to promoting cell death or apoptosis (programmed cell death). of all tissues, favoring the onset of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and the appearance of cancer. In addition to promoting cell death or apoptosis (programmed cell death).

What are antioxidants?

They are molecules that have the property of interacting with free radicals and through their union with oxygen, they limit the harmful power of free radicals. That is, they are a protective factor, which maintains the balance between the production of free radicals and their purification, limiting the damage they cause, mainly to the plasma membrane and DNA.

Considering that it is a balance, the situations that increase the number of endogenous free radicals are, the cellular respiration, the defense mechanisms of the white blood cells, some cellular structures that degrade specific molecules and the enzymes responsible for a metabolism oxidative within the cells. The exogenous factors are some metallic salts, smoking, some foods that are oxidized after their ingestion and those that have a high content of saturated fats (fried foods), factors such as ozone, carbon monoxide, medications or ultraviolet radiation (light of the sun) among others.

What do antioxidants do?

Now you can imagine that an antioxidant is “any substance that delays, prevents or eliminates oxidative damage to a target molecule.”

The action of these substances that are in nature, is that they can interrupt the damage they cause or limit the potential damage they could cause: Antioxidants basically stabilize free radicals and cancel them by limiting their harmful power. The final effect is that they can protect and reverse to some extent the damage caused by free radicals.

Where are the antioxidants?

It is important that you know that your body has the ability to produce some antioxidants, which fight the free radicals that are normally formed. But also your body can obtain antioxidants when a healthy diet is consumed. Among foods rich in antioxidants we find fruits, vegetables and vegetables that contain vitamin A, C and E or those that have beta carotenes, lutein, lycopene and selenium.

Foods that contain these nutrients and other antioxidants include:

  • Beta carotenes: They are found in a wide variety of foods. Like carrots, peas (peas), apricot, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini. It is also found in some green vegetables, such as in the leaves of beets, spinach and kale. And among the fruits is in the melon, papaya, mango, peach, pumpkin and passion fruit (known as passion fruit in English)
  • Lutein: Found in vegetables such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, in romaine lettuce, in vegetables such as broccoli, peas (peas), green turnips, in grains such as corn and in fruits such as papaya and orange. And even in the egg.
  • Lycopene: It is what gives some fruits their pink or red color. For example: tomato, grapefruit or grapefruit, watermelon and guavas. It can also be obtained in a much smaller amount of beans or red beans and red peppers.
  • Vitamin A: Milk, liver, sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, spinach, butter and eggs.
  • Vitamin C: It is in almost all fruits, especially citrus fruits: like grapefruit or grapefruit, orange, but it is also found in papaya, strawberry (strawberry), melon and kiwi, and in some edible plants such as green pepper or red (bell pepper), Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale. And in foods and drinks fortified with vitamin C.
  • Vitamin E: In soybean oil, as well as in vegetable oils: sunflower, corn, safflower, wheat and canola. Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts and sunflower seeds. It is also found in green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale and in breakfast cereals and other products fortified with vitamin E.
  • Selenium: Found in nuts such as nuts (especially Brazil nuts), in products of animal origin such as beef, fish, chicken, turkey or egg as well as cheese and in wheat derivatives such as bread and pasta; in corn, wheat and rice cereals.
  • Phenolic antioxidants ( chlorogenic, caffeic and epicatechin acids): found in coffee and green tea.
  • Tannins, levarteresnol and quercetinas:  in red wine and tea.

The importance of a balanced diet

When knowing where we can find these antioxidants it is clear that a balanced diet will have two effects, the first is that no harmful foods will be consumed (rich in fats) and the second is that different antioxidants will be obtained in sufficient quantities to restore the internal balance. Then the food should contain fruits, vegetables, cereals, grains, legumes, meat, bread or pasta and some drinks with beneficial effect on your skin , heart , brain, kidney and metabolism in general.

Give up smoking

In addition to a balanced diet, some behaviors such as avoiding smoking should be improved, the effects of tobacco are clear and strong on the skin, the development of ailments and the reduction of life expectancy, so it is important that you consider quit smoking .

Self-medication

Avoid self-medication that favor the appearance of excess free radicals, such as the use of antibiotics or paracetamol, it is better to seek medical help.

Sleep long enough

Sleep enough, that is, establish a sleep schedule that allows a spontaneous awakening and not forced by an alarm, this will help improve your daily performance, your concentration and work rate. When you do not sleep well, the vicious circle of stress, problems sleeping, fatigue, more stress, difficulty … etc. is perpetuated .

Exercise

Exercise increases free radicals, a natural effect, but also helps to reduce weight, this decreases glucose and fats in the blood decreasing the oxidative environment, finally the result will be more beneficial than harmful, so a daily exercise routine will very positive effects.

Use of supplements

Make sure to check with your doctor before taking any vitamin supplement. Consuming too many substances such as vitamin E, A or selenium can be dangerous .

While it is true that foods rich in vitamin E and beta-carotene are very healthy and help reduce the risk of developing cancer, the United States Preventive Services Task Force and the American Academy of Family Physicians do not recommend taking vitamin E or beta-carotene supplements. for the prevention of cancer. In people who smoke or have a higher risk of lung cancer, beta-carotene supplements increase the risk of lung cancer.

Consult your doctor if you are considering taking a supplement with antioxidants and vitamins in pills. Dietary supplements in pills do not necessarily have a balanced content of vitamins, minerals or enzymes and therefore, these can have an unfavorable effect on your health. For this reason it is convenient for you to obtain the recommendation of a professional who knows your particular case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables plus four to five servings of nuts, seeds or legumes a week. Obviously all these are an excellent source of antioxidants. But more is not better, the excess can increase free radicals and taking antioxidants in the form of pills can do the same. That is why it is best to obtain them from food.

Roberta has some factors to have a very high oxidative internal environment, before considering consuming antioxidants on her own, she should consult a doctor. However, what you can do is improve your diet by balancing the different groups, organize your work so that you can rest longer, avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun and must stop smoking, in addition to implementing a daily exercise routine. Your doctor will evaluate your weight, diet, previous and current conditions, based on this you will decide what type of supplement you will recommend (if you really need it), for how long and what you can expect from its use.

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