The antioxidants are molecules that have the function of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. The motivation of these molecules to block the harmful effects of free radicals, which are produced by oxidation and start chain reactions ruining cells. The antioxidants are able to finish these reactions by removing free radical intermediates and inhibiting the other oxidation reactions, as opposed to oxidizing themselves.
How do antioxidants works
The mechanisms through which antioxidants perform their function vary from case to case, but the most common is direct interaction with reactive species, under which the antioxidant acts as a stabilizer, through the transfer of an electron to the species reactive: in this way, the radical loses its condition.
This brings as a molecular consequence that the antioxidant is in turn transformed into a free radical, but one that has little or no reactivity in its environment. Other mechanisms of antioxidant function are the stabilization of free radicals through direct transfer of a hydrogen atom.
Different Types of antioxidants
Antioxidants are usually classified among those that are normally biosynthesized by the body, and those that enter it through the diet: the former include both enzymatic and non-enzymatic ones, while the latter is classified among vitamins which are antioxidants, carotenoids, polyphenols, and compounds that do not integrate any of the three previous categories.
See also: Examples of Trace Elements
The main antioxidant vitamins and their sources are:
- Vitamin A: Dairy products, liver, and eggs are its sources
- Vitamin C: Main sources are Vegetables and Fruits
- Vitamin E: Present in Seeds, Nuts, vegetable oils and, leafy vegetables
- Beta-carotene: Present in Brightly colored vegetables and fruits
- Lycopene: Main sources are: Pink, red fruits and vegetables
- Lutein: Present in Green and leafy vegetables
- Selenium: Main Sources are: Rice, corn, wheat, and other whole grains
Read Also: Lipids
In the sense of slowing down the oxidation process, antioxidants also slow down the aging process, fighting the degeneration and death of cells that cause free radicals, and that have a fundamental impact on the deterioration of the skin and body. The inability of the body itself to neutralize the free radicals to which it is exposed daily forces the use of foods with antioxidant properties, in order to block its effect.
On the other hand, there are multiple investigations that consider that diets in which the consumption of antioxidants appears frequently can be an active ally in the fight against cancer. This can be caused by the inhibition of malignant cells, or by the most active reaction in the immune system in general.
Other conditions, such as macular degeneration, suppressed immunity due to poor nutrition, and neurodegeneration caused by oxidative stress, can be prevented through the consumption of antioxidants.
Measuring the level of antioxidants in food is not an easy task, and currently, the best indicator is of the radical absorbance capacity of oxygen. Antioxidants are found in varying amounts in foods such as vegetables, fruits, grain cereals, legumes, and nuts.
See also: What are macronutrients and micronutrients?
Examples of Antioxidants
|Vitamin A||Ellagic acid||Sulfur|
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