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What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are a hot topic. Yet few people know what antioxidants are and what they do. These are the things you definitely need to know about antioxidants.

What are antioxidants?

When we talk about antioxidants, we are talking about substances that can fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals are quite aggressive substances that can cause damage in your body when there are too many of them. Free radicals are therefore linked to chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Your body makes its own antioxidants in the form of glutathione. Your body can thus keep the amount of free radicals in balance. Vitamins E and C are very good antioxidants. These and other antioxidants can be found in vegetables, fruits and superfoods. Antioxidants also play an important role in the food industry to extend the shelf life of foods.

How free radicals work

Your body is constantly producing free radicals. Without antioxidants, the free radicals would be very harmful to your body. Yet the free radicals are present in our body for an important reason. Our immune cells use the free radicals to fight infections. It is therefore always important to have a good balance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body.

An excess of free radicals can lead to oxidative stress. If our body is exposed to oxidative stress for a longer period of time, damage can be done to cell DNA and other important molecules in our body, ultimately resulting in cell death.

Damage to our cell DNA increases the risk of cancer and some scientists believe that free radicals play an important role in the aging process.

There are a number of factors that play a role in an excess of free radicals and the subsequent oxidative stress. These include:

  • air pollution
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Toxins
  • High blood sugar levels
  • A large consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Radiation, including sunbathing
  • Bacterial, fungal and viral infections
  • An excessive intake of iron, magnesium, copper or zinc
  • Too much or too little oxygen your body
  • Due to damage to muscles and tissues, for example through prolonged intensive sports
  • Excessive consumption of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E
  • A deficiency of antioxidants

What types of antioxidants are there?

We can divide antioxidants into two groups:

  • Enzymatic Antioxidants
  • non-enzymatic antioxidants.

The first is made by the body itself. Vitamins and minerals are important non-enzymatic oxidants and our body gets them from food.

Do Antioxidant Supplements Help?

The intake of antioxidants – for example in the form of pills – does not always help to achieve better health. High levels of antioxidants can be dangerous and counterproductive , even contributing to oxidative damage.

While further research is needed to draw definitive conclusions, most health professionals advise against taking antioxidant pills and supplements for this reason.

Instead, it’s a better idea to include antioxidant-rich foods in your daily diet. The effect of good nutrition on oxidative damage is greater than that of supplements.

A study investigated the effects of drinking blood orange juice and sugar water to which vitamin C has been added. The outcome was that the fruit juice had a significantly better antioxidant effect.

The conclusion you can draw from this is that if you want to ensure a good balance between antioxidants and free radicals, you will benefit more from including more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and combining this with a healthy diet. lifestyle.

Antioxidants can also be found in our food

It should be clear that antioxidants are important for living things. That is why our body produces its own antioxidants. Plants and animals do the same, which is why we can also find antioxidants in plant and animal products.

Healthy foods contain many antioxidants that may not be essential for our bodies to function, but they do play a very important role in good overall health. The health benefits of a diet rich in plant-based foods are in large part due to the antioxidants that are abundant in it.

Fruits and vegetables with a lot of antioxidants

Antioxidants are produced by our body and can also be found in (healthy) food. Antioxidants help protect your cells from potentially dangerous free radicals. A diet with lots of vegetables, fruits and herbs contains many antioxidants and makes an important contribution to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Scientists have developed various tests to measure the antioxidant value of food. One of the best tests for this is the FRAP analysis, or Ferric Reducing Ability or Plasma. This test measures antioxidant “power” of foods by measuring their ability to neutralize a particular free radical. The higher the FRAP value, the more antioxidants the food contains.

Vegetables with a lot of antioxidants

Broccoli, red lettuce, avocado, asparagus, beetroot, (red) onion, green lettuce, orange peppers, cucumber, aubergine, carrots, cauliflower, celery, green peppers, ginger, pineapple

Fruits with a lot of antioxidants

Banana apricots, mango, kiwi, lemon juice, grapefruit, mandarin, pear, orange, cherries, cranberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, plums, blueberries apples, elderberries.

Other foods rich in antioxidants

Cocoa, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, artichoke, kidney beans, black beans, almonds, olive oil, figs, peanuts, raisins, dates, agave, chocolate, rye bread, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, white wine, green tea. According to some studies, coffee is also an important source of antioxidants, but this is mainly because the average Western person generally does not consume as many antioxidant-rich foods.

Conclusion

Antioxidants are produced by our body, but you also get them through food. Antioxidants help protect your body from harmful free radicals. When these free radicals are in your body in too large quantities, oxidative stress can arise, which in the long term puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, various types of cancer and many other (chronic) conditions.

Fortunately, by choosing a healthy diet you can provide sufficient antioxidants. You can give your body a helping hand to neutralize free radicals. This reduces the risk of health problems.

By eating a healthy and varied diet you can boost the amount of antioxidants in your body and you will have benefits – especially in the long term.

If you want to make sure you get enough fresh fruit and vegetables every day, take a look at our blender recipes.