Antioxidants: what are they, where do we find them and what are they for?

The current lifestyle can promote inappropriate eating habits, such as the consumption of foods of low nutritional quality and antioxidant capacity. This has caused serious health problems in our society, such as obesity and various chronic degenerative diseases as a consequence of oxidative stress in cells. Cancer, diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases, among others, are the main causes of death in the Mexican population.

There are molecules called free radicals that are normally produced in cells and play an important role in the battle against infections by bacteria and viruses. The concentration of these is normally regulated by internal systems. The problem begins when free radicals come from external sources, such as in the consumption of foods with a high fat content (hamburgers or dressings), or processed foods (cold cuts, fried or roasted) or with preservatives. Also due to excessive alcohol consumption.

This increase in the concentration of free radicals causes an imbalance in the speed of formation and neutralization by the body, giving rise to a phenomenon known as oxidative stress, capable of producing cellular damage if it is not regulated. Such cellular deterioration can be responsible for various chronic degenerative diseases.

With adequate nutrition, human beings can have a decisive influence on their health, performance capacity and life expectancy. Like all living things, you need materials with which you can build or repair your body and obtain energy to make it work.

For a diet to be considered healthy, it must be sufficient, complete, balanced and safe (SCEI). Food that provides the optimal amounts of energy and nutrients necessary for life is considered sufficient; that is, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water, as well as the amount of dietary fiber necessary for proper intestinal function.

A dietary antioxidant is a substance that is part of everyday foods, among the most important are vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin E and flavonoids.

Vitamin E helps maintain integrity and slow the aging of cells. We can find it in foods such as sunflower oil, wheat germ, hazelnuts, almonds, coconut, soybean oil, olive oil, peanuts and walnuts.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, increases immune function and protects cells from structural mutations. We can find it in its natural state in foods such as kiwi, guava, parsley, Brussels sprouts, lemon, spinach, strawberries and oranges.

Beta-carotenes, or provitamin A, protect the genetic information contained in cells and stop the deterioration of tissues. They are present in some foods such as carrots, cooked spinach, butter, tuna, cheese, and eggs.

Flavonoids reduce the risk of chronic diseases, also contribute by inhibiting the formation of cancer cells. The main sources of flavonoids are garlic, broccoli, tomato, cocoa, blueberries, soybeans, apple, carrot, Brussels sprouts, kale, onion, cauliflower, red beet, blackberry, grape, seeds, flowers, wine and green teas and black.

An adequate diet is par excellence the best preventive medicine. Good nutrition prevents deficiencies and excesses, as well as the accumulation of toxic substances in the body. To avoid and control the development of chronic diseases, it is recommended to increase the intake of antioxidants of natural origin, consuming more fruits and vegetables.

Consult your doctor.