Antioxidants are compounds that function to prevent and repair damage to cells in the body, especially those caused by exposure to free radicals. Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods, beverages, and supplements.
Free radicals are chemical substances that are unstable and can damage human body cells. When the body is exposed to too many free radicals, the risk of various health problems, such as premature aging and certain diseases, will be higher.
Actually, if the amount is normal, free radicals will not harm health. Conversely, if the amount is excessive, free radicals can increase the risk of various diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
To prevent cell damage due to exposure to free radicals, the body needs adequate intake of antioxidants.
The Role of Antioxidants in Countering the Effects of Free Radicals
Antioxidants are properties of various compounds that are able to protect body cells from the bad effects of free radicals. Free radicals can form inside or outside the body.
Free radicals formed in the body are chemicals that result from metabolic processes, including the digestion of food and the use of oxygen. Meanwhile, free radicals that are formed outside the body can come from cigarette smoke, vehicle fumes, radiation exposure, toxic substances (eg pesticides), and heavy metals.
If you are frequently exposed to free radicals, for example because you live in an area with high levels of pollution , you will need more antioxidants. The reason is, excessive exposure to pollution can make the levels of free radicals in your body higher, so it takes enough antioxidants to prevent cell damage or disease.
The human body cannot produce antioxidants naturally. Therefore, you need to eat enough foods with high antioxidant content every day to counteract the effects of free radicals.
Various Types and Sources of Antioxidants
There are various types of antioxidants. Each has a different way of working to protect the body’s cells from damage. Here are the types of antioxidants you need to get from the food you eat:
- Vitamin C, serves to prevent and repair cell damage and stimulate the formation of collagen.
- Vitamin E , serves to reduce inflammation and increase endurance.
- Flavonoids, function to rid the body of free radicals, support the performance of body cells, and reduce the effects of toxic substances on the body.
- Lycopene, serves to maintain healthy skin and reduce the risk of cancer.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin , function to protect eye and nerve cells and protect the body from degenerative diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
In addition, there are many other types of antioxidants that are no less important for body health, including glutathione , beta-carotene, polyphenols, and anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are natural dyes found in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. This substance is what gives a variety of bright colors in fruits and vegetables, such as red, orange, yellow, and purple.
Here are some of the main sources of antioxidants that are recommended to be consumed regularly:
- Fruits, such as apples, pears, grapes, oranges, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, papayas, breadfruit, strawberries
- Vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, red cabbage, sweet potatoes
- Nuts, such as pecans, walnuts, soybeans, and almonds
- Grains, such as barley or barley, flaxseed , and chia seeds
In addition to the sources of antioxidants above, there are still many good sources of antioxidants, such as chocolate, tea, coffee, and certain herbal plants.
Antioxidants from natural sources are recommended
Not only in natural food ingredients, antioxidants are also available in supplement form. However, research has found that antioxidant supplements don’t necessarily bring as many benefits as antioxidants found in food.
In fact, there are studies that have found that antioxidant supplements may carry certain health risks.
In smokers, for example, beta-carotene supplements in high levels are at risk of causing lung cancer. In addition, high doses of vitamin E supplements can also increase the risk of stroke and prostate cancer.
Antioxidant supplements, including those from herbal products, are also at risk of causing drug interactions when taken together with certain drugs.
Therefore, instead of taking antioxidant supplements, it is better to choose fresh fruits and vegetables which are the best natural sources of antioxidants. In addition to being rich in antioxidants, in general, these fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and low in saturated fat.
Tips for Consuming Safe Fruits and Vegetables
A variety of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are the best sources of natural antioxidants. However, you still need to be careful in consuming it.
The reason is, if you eat fruit or vegetables that are not fresh, you might even get a disease due to infection with germs, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. These germs can also cause food poisoning.
In order to get antioxidants while avoiding the possibility of disease, here are safe tips for consuming safe fruits and vegetables:
- Choose fruits and vegetables that have no defects. Instead, avoid choosing fruits that look bruised in certain parts or vegetables that have turned black.
- Store fruit in the refrigerator. Separate storage of fruits and vegetables from raw meat, so that bacteria from the meat do not stick.
- Wash your hands before and after washing or preparing fruit and vegetables.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Peel the fruit and chop it using a knife and a cutting board that is different from a meat-cutting tool. If knives and cutting boards have just been used for meat, wash them with soap before using them with fruit and vegetables.
Although foods rich in antioxidants are useful to ward off free radicals, this does not mean that they can directly prevent all diseases. The benefits obtained from nutritious food can be maximized with a combination of a healthy lifestyle, such as exercising regularly, getting enough rest, managing stress well, and not smoking.
If you still have questions regarding antioxidants for daily consumption or are confused about how to get antioxidants, you can consult a doctor.