Antioxidants as Weapons Against Free Radicals

Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent and repair cell damage in the body caused by exposure to free radicals. They can be found in various foods, drinks, and supplements.

In normal amounts, free radicals are not harmful. However, if they become excessive, free radicals can increase the risk of various health problems, such as premature aging, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, the body needs enough antioxidants to combat this damage.

The Role of Antioxidants in Counteracting Free Radicals

Antioxidants protect the body’s cells from the harmful effects of free radicals, whether they originate inside or outside the body. Free radicals inside the body usually come from metabolic processes, such as digestion and oxygen use. Meanwhile, free radicals from outside can come from cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust, radiation, and toxic substances like pesticides.

If you are frequently exposed to free radicals, for example, due to high pollution levels, you will need more antioxidants. Excessive pollution exposure increases free radical levels in the body, necessitating sufficient antioxidants to prevent cell damage that can trigger disease.

Although the body produces antioxidants naturally, the amount is small. Therefore, it is essential to consume antioxidant-rich foods daily.

Types of Antioxidants and Their Benefits

There are various types of antioxidants in foods, each with different mechanisms for protecting the body’s cells. Here are some important types:

  1. Vitamin C: Prevents and repairs cell damage and stimulates collagen production.
  2. Vitamin E: Reduces inflammation and boosts immune function.
  3. Flavonoids: Cleanses the body of free radicals, supports cell function, and reduces the effects of toxins.
  4. Lycopene: Maintains the balance of free radicals, reducing the risk of cell damage.
  5. Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Protects eye and nerve cells and prevents degenerative diseases like cataracts.
  6. Astaxanthin: Boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, and protects cells from free radical damage.
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Other important antioxidants include glutathione, beta-carotene, polyphenols, and anthocyanins.

Sources of Antioxidants

Antioxidants can be obtained from various foods. Here are some recommended sources:

  1. Fruits: Such as berries, apples, grapes, oranges, mangoes, durians, papayas, breadfruit, and strawberries.
  2. Vegetables: Such as broccoli, moringa leaves, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
  3. Nuts: Such as peas, peanuts, walnuts, soybeans, and almonds.
  4. Seeds: Such as sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, black glutinous rice, and whole grains.
  5. Herbal Plants: Such as ant nests.

Additionally, chocolate, tea, coffee, and some herbs like saga leaves, moringa leaves, ginger, and turmeric are also rich in antioxidants.

Taking Antioxidant Supplements

Sometimes, diet alone is not enough to meet the body’s antioxidant needs. Supplements can help, but they must be taken cautiously. Excessive antioxidant supplements can be harmful. For example, high doses of beta-carotene supplements in smokers can increase the risk of lung cancer, and high doses of vitamin E supplements can increase the risk of stroke and prostate cancer.

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Antioxidant supplements can also interact with other medications. Therefore, always follow the usage instructions and consult with a doctor before taking supplements.

Tips for Consuming Fruits and Vegetables Safely

To benefit from the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, it’s important to consume them safely:

  1. Choose fresh, unblemished fruits and vegetables.
  2. Store fruits and vegetables separately from raw meat in the refrigerator.
  3. Wash your hands before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
  4. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water.
  5. Use separate knives and cutting boards for fruits and vegetables. If a knife and cutting board have been used for meat, wash them thoroughly before use.

The benefits of antioxidants from food or supplements can be maximized with a healthy lifestyle, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, stress management, and not smoking.

If you need more antioxidants or want to know the right dosage, consult with a doctor. A doctor can provide recommendations tailored to your needs.