Antioxidants have been a popular topic recently, especially during summer, when fruits and vegetables can be found on our plates more often.
We know that antioxidants can be found in fruits and vegetables, but they are not always easy to reach. Sometimes food needs to be combined wisely for maximum effect.
However, once fall comes, you don’t automatically have to reduce the intake of healthy foods rich in much-needed nutrients. Antioxidants, which are often spoken about, have various roles in our body. They will not rejuvenate us or give us wings, but they are a very important attribute to our health.
What is it really about, what are antioxidants?
To understand the story of antioxidants, it is necessary to mention free radicals, their main rivals. Free radicals are harmful compounds formed in the body over our lifetime and they damage the cells they are formed in. The amount of free radicals in the body depends on the environment in which we live and on our lifestyle. Free radicals are an unavoidable part of the metabolism and they don’t cause any problems as long as there is a balance between them and the antioxidants. If there are more free radicals, there is a problem.
All compounds that neutralize free radicals are called antioxidants. In short, antioxidants are substances that prevent oxidation, and their role in biological systems is to neutralize free radicals without becoming reactive.
Since there are so many antioxidants, you may wonder if you need to look for them specifically or if they are found everywhere, so why bother. Some antioxidants are relatively easy to identify in food – they are mainly pigments, bright colours in fruits and vegetables. As the choice of colorful fruits and vegetables is not as wide when autumn approaches, it is necessary to turn to seasonal foods, in which we can find more than enough antioxidants.
Foods that are recommended for colder days include pomegranate, ginger, nuts, red beans, prunes, garlic, apples with peel (Red Delicious and Granny Smith).
A pomegranate, for example, has an antioxidative capacity that is 24 times stronger than that of an apple. Although they are grown on every continent, pomegranates are most widely used in Mediterranean countries, as well as Asia and Azerbaijan. Pomegranate is extremely rich in vitamin C; it also contains vitamin A, and a satisfactory fibre portion (6.7g fibre / 28g serving). This is valuable information to have in mind when the season of colds is near and vitamin C plays a crucial role. Most antioxidants from pomegranate are found in its seeds.
Research tells us that a diet rich in antioxidants may have a positive impact on reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (Source: Mayo Clinic).One could almost say that “a pomegranate a day keeps the doctor away”, because it has been proven to help with reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. As a reminder, LDL is the bad cholesterol, and when it is oxidized, it presents a threat of arteriosclerosis.
If you are still suspicious of the power of antioxidants, bear in mind the fact that food rich in antioxidants generally also contains a high level of dietary fibre, low levels of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, and it is a good source of vitamins and minerals, so it’s good for you either way.