Antioxidants – what is it. Their properties
Oxidative processes constantly occur in our bodies. During life, a huge number of chemical reactions take place in the human body, each of which requires oxygen. It is he who releases the vital energy, but in large quantities it becomes like a poison, turning into the so-called free radicals (oxidizing agents, oxidants).
Free radicals trigger processes in our body that are similar to corrosion and decay. This deforms our body from the inside, kills the immune forces, and makes the body defenseless against the attack of viruses, infections, and microbes. It is with the action of oxidants that modern medicine associates many diseases, so our body needs an effective antidote, which is played by special substances – antioxidants.
What is an antioxidant
Antioxidants are molecules that reduce the amount of active oxygen. Their main task is to fight free radicals that destroy our body at the cellular level. The aggressive action of oxidizing agents quickly affects the human body, causing early aging and dangerous diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, disorders in the brain and DNA structure, and cellular mutations. Substances-antioxidants neutralize and block dangerous cells before they begin to destroy tissues. Modern science knows about 3000 antioxidants.
All antioxidants are divided into three groups:
- Substances are produced by the human body. The tasks of these cells include the direct protection of tissues from oxidizing agents. But they are not enough to cope with this difficult task on their own.
- Natural (food) antioxidants. These enzymes enter our body from the external environment along with food. Sources of natural antioxidants are most vegetables and fruits, medicinal herbs, and some varieties of spices.
- synthetic antioxidants. This group includes synthetic supplements and vitamin preparations.
Useful properties of antioxidants
The main properties of antioxidants are:
- fight against oxidants
- strengthening the cardiovascular system
- strengthening immunity
- eye protection
- normalization of blood cholesterol levels
- increasing the body’s resistance to stress
- prevention of the development of certain forms of cancer
- acceleration of recovery processes after illnesses, injuries, and loads
- preservation of beauty and prolongation of youth
- protecting the body from damaging ultraviolet radiation
Every day a person is recommended to consume 8-10 mmol of antioxidants. It should be remembered that in the process of digestion of food, the amount of oxidizing substances increases dramatically, therefore, after eating, the natural antioxidant defense is inhibited. It is important to take antioxidants with food, depending on the total calories. The main principle: the more calories you consume, the more antioxidant enzymes you need. In smokers, the need for antioxidants is doubled, tk. nicotine contributes to the acceleration of oxidative processes.
What foods and where else contain antioxidants
Small amounts of antioxidants are found in vegetables and fruits, so a well-designed diet can help maintain health and reduce oxidative stress on the body.
It has long been known that antioxidant properties determine the substances responsible for the color of plants. The record holders for the number of antioxidants are the fruits of red, blue, orange, and dark shades. Their benefits increase if they have a sour or sweet and sour taste. In second place in terms of the content of antioxidants are vegetables and fruits of yellow and green colors.
Antioxidants in cosmetics
Free radicals are responsible for the appearance of wrinkles and aging of the skin, which is why antioxidant components are included in many cosmetics. Antioxidants improve the condition of the epidermis and restore its elasticity and healthy appearance. At the same time, they successfully fight not only wrinkles and sagging skin but also acne, pimples, and inflammation.
When choosing skin care creams, pay attention to the most valuable antioxidants in their composition:
- carotenoids – accelerate regeneration processes, protect against aggressive rays of the sun, eliminate dryness, and peeling of the epidermis;
- bioflavonoids – phytoestrogens, indispensable for older women; protect the dermis from photoaging, restore the skin after intensive cosmetic procedures, are useful for acne vulgaris;
- vitamin A is an excellent stimulant for the skin, maintains elasticity, whitens, and accelerates the production of collagen.
- vitamin K is a strong antioxidant that fights redness, bursting capillaries, and strengthens the walls of blood vessels.
- green tea is a plant antioxidant that preserves natural collagen from deformation;
- witch hazel – in addition to antioxidant, has an astringent and anti-inflammatory effect;
- grape seed extract – a frequent component of anti-aging cosmetics, increases collagen production and reduces the harm of ultraviolet radiation.
While antioxidants can help prevent premature aging of the skin, they won’t work on existing deep wrinkles. Also, antioxidants will not be a substitute for sunscreen cosmetics. They can protect against ultraviolet radiation, but at the same time they can be oxidized under the influence of rays, therefore, along with antioxidant cosmetics, dermatologists recommend applying a protective cream with a level of at least SPF-10.
Sources of free radicals are bad habits, radiation, food coloring, deteriorating environmental conditions, medications, and frequent stressful situations. In addition, the amount of oxidants is increased by heavy physical exertion, allergic reactions, chronic organ pathologies, and exposure to harmful substances (pesticides, nitrates, insecticides).
Protecting our body from the damaging effects of oxidizing cells, antioxidants prolong youth, promote health and prevent dangerous diseases. They are necessary for athletes during training and competition, improving athletic performance, protecting muscles from destruction, and helping to recover faster after exertion. For antioxidants to bring exceptional benefits, you should follow the rules for taking supplements and not abusing them.