Antioxidants help the body in the fight against free radicals and thus prevent diseases. Every day body cells are attacked by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that lack an electron, i.e. a negatively charged particle. The formation of free radicals increases due to external influences on the body such as stress, smoking, unhealthy nutrition, intensive sun exposure or medication.
What do free radicals do?
To compensate for the excess of positively charged particles, they snatch the missing electron from the next best cell. These cells include, for instance, DNA, cell membranes or proteins. Since the snatched molecule no longer has an electron, it also becomes a free radical and tries to steal the electron from other cells. A dangerous chain reaction develops. This process is called "oxidation" or "oxidative stress." Oxidative stress can, for example, lead to restricted cell function, cell death or uncontrolled cell division. Oxidation accelerates the aging process and can trigger cardiovascular diseases, joint diseases, diabetes, dementia or cancer.
The most important antioxidants
Antioxidants can protect the body's own cells from diseases and rapid aging, and are indispensable for health.
Antioxidants include vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes and secondary plant substances. The ORCA value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) was introduced as a unit of measurement for protection against free radicals. It stands for the antioxidative capacity to neutralize oxygen radicals.
- Vitamins A, C and E
- Trace elements iron, selenium, copper, manganese and zinc
- Secondary plant substances
- Curcumin from the turmeric root
- Beta carotene
- Resveratol from the skins of blue grapes
- Astaxanthin from algae
- Body's own enzymes
- Alpha lipoic acid
- Ubiquinol (the active form of coenzyme Q10)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Antioxidants in food
Antioxidants can also be consumed through a healthy and varied diet.
Foods particularly rich in antioxidants include:
- Fresh fruit (especially citrus fruits, currants, kiwis, strawberries, grapes, apples, apricots and mangoes)
- Fresh vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, broccoli, spinach and kale)
- Herbs (basil, savory, dill, tarragon, coriander, oregano, sage, thyme)
- Spices (turmeric, curry, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and cocoa)
- Nuts and Lentils
- Wholemeal products
- Red wine
- Dark chocolate
Fresh food is the healthiest. Since most plant antioxidants are found in the skin, it's best to wash produce such as apples well but not peel before eating.