Antioxidant molecules are at the origin of the beneficial properties of foods of plant origin on our health. In fact, research in recent years has shown that the main sources of antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables, red wine, green tea and dark chocolate could actively participate in preventing certain cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases as well as several types of cancer. A look at these very special molecules…
“We die because we breathe”
The oxygen in the air we breathe serves as fuel for our cells to produce the energy necessary for their proper functioning. However, this combustion is not perfect and generates considerable quantities of “waste” called “free radicals”. These free radicals are harmful to the cell because they attack the structure of several of its constituents, particularly DNA, which causes considerable damage.
For example, a cell can accumulate more than 60,000 “damages” in its genetic material as it ages, which contributes to the development of cancer.
To simplify, let’s say that an antioxidant is simply a molecule that transforms these free radicals into harmless products and thus reduces their harmful effects. Our cells contain several antioxidant molecules to protect themselves from these free radicals, but it is likely that this defense is insufficient to counter the negative effects of the multitude of toxic aggressors of food origin (bacon, deli meats, smoked meats) and environmental around us (cigarette smoke, ionizing radiation, ultraviolet rays). The addition of antioxidants to the diet could therefore provide reinforcements to the defense systems of our cells and thus protect us from cancer. To take a simple example, we can compare the effect of antioxidant defenses to that of a paint that manages to protect the metal from rust caused by the oxygen in the air.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables: the first source of antioxidants
Until recently, vitamins were thought to be the primary cause of antioxidant activity in fruits and vegetables. We now know that this is really not the case! In fact, antioxidant vitamins like vitamins C and E often only account for a small portion of the antioxidant activity of the fruits or vegetables that contain them.
Thus, the vitamin C of an apple generates only 1% of the antioxidant activity of this fruit! These observations are important because too many people think they can meet their daily antioxidant intake just by consuming vitamin supplements. This is a bad strategy because the antioxidant protection from these supplements is far less than that offered by whole fruits and vegetables. Another good reason to consume 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day!
The best sources of antioxidants
Research in recent years has shown that the antioxidant activity of foods is mainly due to polyphenols, a class of very complex molecules that have an ideal chemical structure for absorbing free radicals. In general, the foods that contain the highest amounts of these polyphenols are those that have the
higher antioxidant activity. For example :
– Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc.) as well as apples and oranges are extraordinary sources of antioxidant polyphenols and should be consumed regularly.
– Green tea: Polyphenols represent a third of the weight of tea leaves, which makes it an incomparable source of molecules
antioxidants. In addition to their antioxidant activity, tea polyphenols have the property of blocking several phenomena linked to the development of cancer.
– Dark chocolate 70%: An excellent source of polyphenols, dark chocolate has beneficial effects on blood vessels and could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But beware, chocolate is very caloric and should not be abused!
– Finally, we must not forget certain foods such as walnuts, artichoke hearts, asparagus or red beans, which all have important antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants and anticancer
The positive impact of polyphenols present in foods of plant origin, however, is not limited to their antioxidant activity. Indeed, several of these molecules also have the property of specifically blocking certain processes involved in the development of cancer, and there is no doubt that this activity contributes significantly to the preventive effect of fruits and vegetables. against this disease.
It is therefore necessary to promote the regular consumption of foods rich in antioxidant polyphenols not only to reduce the damage caused by free radicals, but also to be able to take advantage of their anti-cancer properties.
* The information and services available on pressesante.com in no way replace the consultation of competent health professionals. [HighProtein-Foods.com]