The antioxidants serve to diminish the action of free radicals, which in turn are the promoters of cellular oxidation determinant factor of aging.
The aging process is part of the natural cycle in every organism, it occurs in each cell from the development of oxidation reactions. Antioxidants have the power to re-establish this process and despite the fact that the transformation towards old age will undoubtedly continue on its way, they can help to gradually and healthily carry the change and the passing of the years, in this sense antioxidants are great allies of health.
What are antioxidants and what are their benefits?
Antioxidants are compounds or chemical substances that serve our body to reduce the action of free radicals, considerably preserving the state of cells, slowing down the aging process.
Foods that provide antioxidant substances are appreciated for their enormous health benefits, especially for their ability to care for the skin, the vigor of cells and the immune system.
Among the benefits they provide, the following stand out:
Role of antioxidants as protectants
Antioxidants provide protection to the body and its cells against free radicals, which are the cause of the aging process and some cell diseases.
On the other hand, it provides cardiovascular protection, since it reduces cholesterol that becomes harmful when oxidized, and adheres to the walls of veins and arteries.
For this reason it is said that antioxidants prevent cell wear in situations of high energy demand, in cases of stress, in the face of great physical and mental demand and in the face of chronic diseases.
Role of antioxidants against cancer
Helps in the fight against cancer. There are more and more studies related to the subject, according to which leading a healthy life, a balanced diet that includes abundant antioxidant foods such as fruits and vegetables, allows minimizing the risks of suffering from certain types of cancer.
How do antioxidants work in our body?
Antioxidants act on free radicals, stabilizing them by donating an electron or hydrogen, in this process the free radicals stop reacting or combining. Antioxidants during this process are oxidized.
Antioxidants are reducing agents, since they give up electrons. Its action on free radicals occurs through mechanisms, which can be preventive or secondary.
Oxygen is an element that has the ability to react with other atoms to form new compounds, although it is much more complex, this process is known as cellular oxidation and is based on this principle, where atoms and their particles with electrical charges are combine giving rise to new elements. This oxidation process manifests itself through cellular changes that lead to cellular and body aging.
How does the cellular aging process occur?
When talking about antioxidants and their benefits on our body, it is important that we begin by knowing how the aging process occurs and its relationship with the presence of free radicals since antioxidants act on this process.
Although there are different opinions in this regard, aging in our body occurs due to the combination of different factors, including genetic, environmental and internal factors, which begin at the cellular level and progressively affect the functioning of each organ, tissue and system. .
As a consequence of aging, gray hair, loss of muscle mass, decalcification, decrease in size, memory failures, among others, will begin to be appreciated.
A free radical is any molecule or particle that has an electron in its outer shell, available to pair or combine, an electron is a negatively charged particle.
These elements, through the supply of oxygen to the cells, cause their oxidation. Free radicals combine with fundamental molecules such as proteins and DNA and deactivate them.
Free radicals are formed in our body during different metabolic reactions. During this free radical production process, the balance is altered, which leads to an oxidation process that causes aging.
Some factors such as smoking, exposure to solar radiation, inflammatory processes, lack of nutrients such as vitamins can promote the oxidative process.
How does the body fight the cellular aging process?
From the action of antioxidant substances, our body copes with this process. Our body has an antioxidant system that can be classified into enzymatic and non-enzymatic. Its action is seen according to the types of antioxidants .
They are produced by our body and neutralize the action of free radicals to some extent.
An example of this is glutathione, this antioxidant is made up of amino acids, glutamine, cysteine and glycine.
Glutathione is an antioxidant, which represents many benefits for our body, some of these are:
- This molecule, which is produced in our body naturally, favors our immune system.
- Helps in detoxification processes.
- Another of its advantages is that it decreases the time to recover the muscles, increases resistance and strength, favors the change in fat metabolism for muscle development.
- It serves to combat inflammation processes.
- Promotes energy metabolism.
- In the anticancer action, antioxidants are linked to lower levels of onset of this disease.
- Protects our cardiovascular system, helps to improve the negative effect of cholesterol on the arteries.
- These prevent blindness that occurs with age.
- It helps to combat dry skin, which will be appreciated by improving its texture and this is reflected in its beauty.
This occurs since glutathione has sulfur in its composition, which allows it to capture part of these toxic compounds or free radicals. These are then channeled with the bile and can be excreted through the feces.
Environmental factors, oxidative stress, or many toxins affect glutathione levels in the body.
They are used in bodily processes that have to do with:
- Repair the tissues of our body.
- Keep our skin healthy.
- Take care of our bone system, teeth, nails and hair.
- Improve our eyesight.
These antioxidants are, vitamin C, E, Ginkgo biloba.
Not only glutathione helps us health, let’s now look at other types of antioxidants and foods that contain them.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin promotes the formation of collagen, necessary for the union and elasticity of tissues, bones, skin and teeth are benefited. We can obtain vitamin C through citrus fruits, lemon, orange, tangerine. Likewise, in melon, strawberries, cabbages, kiwis, papaya or milky and tomatoes.
- Vitamin E: This vitamin protects us from the action of toxic substances, prevents the reduction of erythrocytes, eye problems, heart attacks and anemia. It is present in the yellow of the egg, cereals, oils of vegetable origin such as sunflower, corn and soy.
- Ginkgo biloba: The flavonoids or natural pigments that it has in its leaves increase blood circulation and promote irrigation to the tissues. This improves brain activity and obviously heart activity.
- Carotenoids: Pigments such as lutein and carotenoids, which are contained in spinach, carrots, apricots, tomatoes, squash, papaya, among others, have an antioxidant effect.
- Zinc: this element is present in nuts, cereals, seeds and squash or pumpkin.
- Ellagic acid: Present in kiwis, strawberries, blueberries, pomegranate.
- Capsicin: These compounds are present in paprika, chili peppers, cayenne pepper, chili peppers.
- Hesperidin: Glucoside, antioxidant, present in citrus fruits.
- Quercithin: Flavonoid, present in grapes, broccoli, onion, green tea, cherries.
- Tannins: Wine and grapes with their skin are an important source of them.
- Zeaxanthin: present in corn, squash, and spinach.
How to improve antioxidant levels in the body?
- Including in our diet foods that contain sulfur, such as: garlic, broccoli, onion, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress.
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can promote and increase antioxidant levels, which will benefit health. Whether you choose to walk or do other aerobic exercises, you are undoubtedly helping your body.
- Ingest glutathione through supplements or multivitamins where vitamin B6 and B12 are found, vitamin E and C, including fish oils.
- By including amino acids, folic acid, thioctic acid, since we will promote energy processes, brain, blood sugar levels.
- Include minerals such as selenium, which favors the production of antioxidants, particularly glutathione.
Can including a balanced diet slow down aging?
The answer is yes, as we see, antioxidants are related to the delay of this physiological process and these are present in a large number of foods.
Some simple tips will help you benefit from the action of antioxidants:
- Consume salads, include ginger, coriander, parsley, turmeric, cloves, oregano, cinnamon, basil, thyme.
- Drink green tea, a cup of coffee without a lot of sugar in the morning.
- Incorporate servings of fruits daily.
- Snack on a small piece of dark chocolate, with low or no sugar content.
To conclude, aging is a natural process, which we can face through simple measures that allow us to have a favorable state of health to make our lives more pleasant and long.
Including antioxidant substances in our diet, helps us to delay the damage that time leaves in the different organs and tissues, in this sense the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants will have a positive effect on the cardiovascular and immune systems, the skin, hair and nails.
Antioxidants help prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and being overweight, which cause up to 60 percent of deaths in developed countries. All of these are favored by the presence of bad habits such as smoking, sedentary lifestyle and inappropriate diet.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants and improving our lifestyles are simple strategies to fight disease and aging.
Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.