Sources of free radicals from outside the body that can be found everyday, such as cigarette smoke, vehicle smoke, and food contaminated with pesticides. Free radicals risk damaging cells in the body and triggering serious diseases. Eating foods rich in antioxidants can reduce the risk of damage.
Bananas that have been split will change color quickly. Chicken meat that is not stored in the refrigerator will eventually become stale. This is called the oxidation process. The cells in the human body also experience natural processes like that.
When the body uses oxygen, about 1-2 percent of cells will become damaged and turn into free radicals. Free radicals are designations for damaged cells that can cause certain negative conditions. To prevent damage, the body needs enough antioxidants.
Antioxidants vs. Free Radicals
Antioxidants are ingredients that help protect your body’s cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals can be formed naturally in the body and can be obtained from outside the body.
Free radicals that form in the body are chemicals that are produced from the process of digestion of food. While free radicals from outside the body are caused by cigarette smoke and radiation. Free radicals that the body cannot handle can trigger various chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
At this time, especially in big cities when pollution levels are higher, you increasingly need antioxidants, especially if you live in an environment with higher pollution levels. The body’s oxidative load in such environments is much higher than in places with low pollution levels.
The body cannot produce antioxidants naturally as needed. Therefore, you need to consume enough foods with high antioxidant content every day, to fight free radicals.
Types and Sources of Antioxidants
There are various types of antioxidants. Each type of antioxidant works in a different way, to protect body cells from damage. Vitamin C is known to prevent damage by capturing and neutralizing free radicals, while vitamin E can break the free radical chain. Flavonoids and polyphenols are antioxidants found in various types of food and are the largest part of antioxidants.
Some vegetables and fruits contain higher antioxidants than others. Examples of antioxidants used by the body are vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene. All three are contained in fruits and vegetables that are red, orange, yellow, and purple.
The following are some of the main food sources of antioxidants that are recommended for regular consumption.
- Fruits: apples, pears, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, papayas, breadfruit, strawberries.
- Vegetables: broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, red cabbage, red yam.
- Nuts: pecans, walnuts, almonds.
In addition to the above ingredients, chocolate, tea (for example green tea and oolong tea), and coffee without added ingredients, are also good sources of antioxidants. As much as possible the consumption of various food groups in order to get the best benefits of all types.
A study found that elderly women who are not accustomed to eating fresh vegetables and fruits every day will have a 25 percent higher risk of having a heart attack within the next 10 years than those who do not. Avoid cooking overcooked vegetables so that the vitamin content is not lost. The best way to eat vegetables is to consume raw or half cooked.
Natural Vegetables and Fruits More Recommended
Research has found that antioxidant supplements may not necessarily bring as many benefits as antioxidants found in fresh food. There are even studies that have found that in some cases this supplement can pose a risk.
In addition to the risk of causing complications if taken together with other drugs, antioxidant supplements in high doses can cause health problems. In smokers, high levels of beta-carotene supplements are at risk of causing lung cancer. While vitamin E supplements in high doses can increase the risk of stroke and prostate cancer.
Instead of supplements, it’s better to choose fresh fruits and vegetables which are the best source of natural antioxidants. Prioritize fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins E, C, carotenoids, flavonoids, tannins, phenols and lignans. Besides being rich in antioxidants, in general these fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and low in saturated fat content.
Safe Tips for Eating Uncooked Fruits and Vegetables
Although fruits and vegetables, especially uncooked vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants, be careful when consuming them. If you eat fruits or vegetables that are not fresh, you might even get the disease. Because, germs such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria which may be found in fruits and vegetables, will come into the body.
In order to get antioxidants while avoiding possible diseases, here are tips for safe eating uncooked fruits and vegetables:
- Choose fruits and vegetables that have no defects. Avoid choosing fruit that looks bruised in certain parts or vegetables that have been blackened because it means it has begun not fresh, and can be a place for bacteria to grow.
- Put the fruit in the refrigerator. Separate the storage of fruits and vegetables from raw meat, so that bacteria from the meat do not stick.
- Wash hands before and after washing or preparing fruits and vegetables.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Peel the fruit and cut it using a knife and a separate cutting board with a tool for cutting meat. If knives and cutting boards have just been used for meat, wash them first using soap before using them for fruit and vegetables.
Although foods rich in antioxidants are useful to ward off free radicals, that does not mean they can directly prevent all diseases. The benefits of nutritious food can be maximized with a combination of healthy lifestyles, such as regular exercise, adequate rest, and not smoking.