Intelligent eating with antioxidants

Oxygen is essential, even a child knows that. However, 1 to 3 percent of our breathing air produces harmful by-products, known as free radicals, in our cell metabolism.

Various bundles of fresh herbs and spices

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are extremely aggressive, reactive particles that are largely responsible for the aging process. Most of them are oxygen compounds. They are produced permanently in every body cell when energy is produced with the aid of oxygen. Carbon dioxide and free radicals are produced as waste products. External influences such as UV light, smoking, alcohol, ozone, fine dust or competitive sports can also produce free radicals. Free radicals are characterized by the fact that they have lost an electron and now want to re-occupy the missing part their chemical structure. They snatch an electron from the next best cell at lightning speed and trigger a chain reaction. This is because the "stolen" cell, which has itself now become a free radical, in turn looks for an electron from another cell. This electron theft is called "oxidation." The same effect happens when metal rusts or fat turns rancid. Here, too, exists the process of oxidation.

How free radicals harm our body

Free radicals can harm the body if they attack cell membranes, proteins or the genetic material of the cell, the DNA. The affected cells are severely impaired in their function and die prematurely or degenerate, causing cancer and a number of other diseases. This condition is called "oxidative stress."

How to recognize free radical damage

From an external glance, it is hardly possible to detect exposure to free radicals. However, one unmistakable sign are the so-called "age spots" on skin. These brown spots, which mainly occur on the backs of the hands, on the arms or face, are deposits from damaged fat and protein building blocks, oxidative waste from free radicals that settle in the skin. In them, one can see the sins of youth and the live so far lived.

How to keep free radicals in check

The body's own protective mechanisms ensure that free radicals do not cause too much damage to our bodies. However, these protection systems require co-factors that must be supplied from food. These co-factors include vitamins and minerals. However, there are also substances called antioxidants, which we can consume directly and which bind free radicals, rendering them harmless. Many plants contain antioxidants because they are able to compensate for the oxidative stress caused by the sun's UV light by producing their own antioxidants. When eating these plants, we benefit from their antioxidant properties. Especially herbs such as basil, savory, dill, tarragon, coriander, oregano, sage, and thyme, as well as spices such as turmeric, curry, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and cloves, and in addition to cocoa, nuts and lentils, contain many antioxidants. The ORCA value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) was introduced as a unit of measurement for protection against free radicals. It represents the antioxidant capacity to neutralize free radicals. Foods with a high ORCA value therefore contribute significantly to the protection against excessive oxidative stress and help to protect against diseases and premature aging.

Antioxidants as a dietary supplement

Often it is not possible to neutralize free radicals by food alone. That is why certain dietary supplements have worked extremely well. The following substances have a high antioxidant benefit:

- Curcumin, which is extracted from the turmeric root

- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)

- Resveratrol, which is obtained from the skins of red grapes

- Astaxanthin, which comes from algae.

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