Antioxidants are extremely valuable food compounds for our health since they fight against the famous free radicals, responsible for what we call “oxidative stress”.
Free radicals are produced naturally by our body, and are to a certain extent necessary because they are involved, for example, in the defense against viruses and pathogenic bacteria. However, certain factors such as overexposure to the sun, alcohol, tobacco, stress and an unbalanced diet can contribute to excessive production of free radicals, causing damage to cells, and contributing to premature aging of tissues and the development of diseases. cardiovascular or degenerative diseases such as cancer .
To counteract the negative effects of our lifestyle, it is therefore important to adopt a diet rich in antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, trace elements (copper, selenium, zinc), carotenoids (beta- carotene and lycopene) and polyphenols.
The main benefits of antioxidants
As you will have understood, the most important advantage of antioxidants is the fight against free radicals present in the human body, which are responsible for the degradation of our tissues and cells. Concretely ?
They contribute to eye health
The antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene all have positive effects in preventing the symptoms of macular degeneration or age-related vision loss. Many foods that provide these nutrients also provide antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin, nicknamed the eye vitamins, found in brightly colored foods like fruits and vegetables — especially leafy greens and types that are orange or dark yellow.
They slow down skin aging
Vitamins A and C have been linked to a decrease in the appearance of wrinkles and dry skin. Vitamin C, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the effect of oxidative damage caused by pollution, stress or poor diet.
They prevent cardiovascular disorders
The presence of a high level of antioxidant vitamin C in the blood would help reduce the risk of stroke by almost 50%. Countless studies have also shown that people who eat plant-based diets - rich in fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and fruits - have a better chance of living longer, healthier lives, with less cardiovascular disorders.
They reduce the risk of cancer
Some studies have shown that a high intake of vitamin A and vitamin C may help prevent several forms of cancer through their ability to cause apoptosis (destruction) of cancer cells.
They slow cognitive decline
It appears that oxidative stress plays a central role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases, and that a diet rich in antioxidants (vitamin C and E) can reduce the risk. Many studies have shown that people who follow a plant-based diet rich in antioxidants , such as the Mediterranean diet, have better protection against cognitive decline.
They prevent type 2 diabetes
Ingesting foods with antioxidant properties appears to help preserve the function of pancreatic cells, responsible for insulin production. Furthermore, vitamin E would help reduce blood sugar levels, while vitamin C would be effective in reducing levels of oxidative stress.
Foods to favor
Here is a guide to the foods to favor, based on the ORAC index ( Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity ) which measures the absorption capacity of free radicals per 100 grams of food:
Berries and red fruits
Berries are real health allies. They have extraordinary antioxidant power thanks to their polyphenol and vitamin C content, have recognized anti-inflammatory properties and are a food very appreciated by our beneficial intestinal bacteria. Among the red fruits with the most powerful antioxidant powers, we find:
- The blueberries
- The walls
- The strawberries
The dried fruit
Good to know: antioxidant compounds are more abundant in dried fruits. And the champions are:
- Goji berries
- Cranberries or cranberries
Don't hesitate to consume it every day, it will also give you extra energy. For sluggish intestines, preferably choose prunes which will considerably improve your transit ;)
They are rich in flavonoids, compounds from the polyphenol family. These powerful antioxidants act in synergy with vitamin C to strengthen the elasticity and resistance of blood vessels, improve irrigation and dilation of arteries and thus regulate blood pressure. They also help protect collagen fibers, essential for maintaining tissue health.
Apples have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, promote weight loss and reduce “bad” cholesterol. They contain, mainly in their skin, a variety of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid, all of which are powerful antioxidants . So be sure to eat them with the skin on and choose them organic whenever possible.
The artichoke heart is an antioxidant bomb since it contains a wide diversity of phenolic compounds, anthocyanins and silymarin which help protect the body against cancer cells. The artichoke also contains inulin, a fermentable fiber from the fructan family, extremely beneficial for the health of our microbiota.
Legumes, and more particularly dried beans , are also one of the best plant sources of antioxidants. Certain types of beans, like pinto beans, contain a special antioxidant called kaempferol. This antioxidant has been linked to impressive health benefits, such as reducing chronic inflammation and slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Cruciferous vegetables are particularly rich in antioxidant vitamin C, and are also excellent sources of vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate, and soluble fiber. All of these substances can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Their high calcium content also protects bone density and can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis. To maximize your intake, vary the pleasures:
- White, green or red cabbage
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
Like all red fruits and vegetables, peppers are rich in carotene and flavonoids, but also in polyphenols, vitamin C and fiber. It helps regulate sluggish intestines, fights fatigue and allergies and protects the heart.
Polyphenols, and more precisely flavonols, are the compounds that give cocoa its antioxidant properties. It is the food richest in these substances. Thus, the phenolic compounds of cocoa reduce the risk of diseases linked to aging and oxidative stress, such as certain cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. To benefit as much as possible from its virtues, regularly consume dark chocolate (>75%).
Oleaginous fruits ( walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans , etc.) are excellent sources of vitamin E , an antioxidant that protects fats from oxidation and helps slow down cellular aging. But not all oilseeds are equal, walnut undoubtedly contains the highest amount of antioxidants . Its thin brown film contains around ten phenolic compounds capable of inhibiting the oxidation of “bad cholesterol” (or LDL cholesterol). One of them, ellagic acid, also has anti-cancer properties.
Spices and aromatics
In addition to antioxidant plants, some herbs and spices have extremely high levels of healing antioxidant compounds. Here is another list of condiments you can add to your diet for added protection against disease and aging:
- Parsley (dried)
- The Basilic
Green tea and coffee
Both tea and coffee are loaded with antioxidants , primarily polyphenols, which contribute to their characteristic flavor and health-promoting properties. And while coffee contains more antioxidants per cup consumed, some people are overly sensitive to its caffeine content which can end up depleting the adrenal glands that produce stress and alertness hormones. Tea, on the other hand, contains L-theanine which counteracts the effects of caffeine and is better tolerated by people suffering from stress or anxiety.
Finally, know that pesticides reduce the antioxidant content of fruits and vegetables, and that an organic diet is therefore more effective in combating oxidative stress! Furthermore, gentle cooking without submersion in water, such as steam, is the one that best preserves the antioxidant content of foods.