What feeds free radicals

Antioxidants: How they work and which foods contain many

Antioxidants are considered to be important health protection. They are designed to help protect against diseases such as arteriosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. But is that true?

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are created during various metabolic processes in the body. They also have an external effect on the body, for example in the form of UV radiation, environmental toxins and cigarette smoke. If too many free radicals act on the body, experts speak of what is known as oxidative stress. This is said to increase the risk of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancer and to age the skin faster.

How do antioxidants work?

"To put it simply, free radicals are substances that have the potential to attack body cells and, for example, promote the formation of tumors," explains Brigitte Neumann. "Antioxidants can to a certain extent convert these free radicals into a non-damaging structure and thus help protect cells from oxidative stress." Antioxidants are therefore a kind of protective shield for the body.

Do Antioxidants Help Against Cancer?

Whether antioxidants can really prevent certain diseases, such as cancer, has not yet been scientifically proven. "Using cancer as an example, it can be said that tests in the test tube have worked. Epidemiological studies in which the intake of antioxidants was correlated with the frequency of cancer did not come to any positive result," says Neumann.

Which antioxidants are considered particularly valuable?

Vitamins A, C and E as well as B2 have an antioxidant effect, as do the group of flavones and polyphenols. These are phytochemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color and taste. Minerals such as zinc and selenium are also antioxidants.

The antioxidant effect can be clearly seen in the example of vitamin C: if you cut a banana, it quickly turns brown. On the other hand, if you drizzle a little lemon juice on the fruit, the banana will not oxidize and will stay light.

But the body is not only supplied with antioxidants from the outside. "In addition to the antioxidants that we take in with our diet, our metabolism is also able to produce very specific antioxidant substances for very specific metabolic processes," explains the nutritionist. This includes certain hormones and enzymes.

What are the many antioxidants in?

Fruit, vegetables and nuts in particular contain plenty of antioxidant substances - especially under the skin. Nutrition experts therefore advise consuming the peel as well as possible. "For example, all winter vegetables such as cabbage and beets of all kinds, tomatoes, peppers, lactic acid vegetables such as sauerkraut, stone fruit, pome fruit and processed luxury foods such as red wine or chocolate are rich in antioxidants," says Neumann.

Vitamin tablets: are they a good alternative to fruits and vegetables? (Source: HeikeRau / Getty Images)

As a Dietary Supplement: Are Antioxidants Dangerous?

According to the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, it has not been proven that isolated antioxidants in the form of dietary supplements or in ACE products with beta-carotene, vitamins C and E can protect against diseases such as arteriosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis or cancer or stop aging processes. Also, a positive effect of plenty of "radical scavengers" in sport has not been proven.

And not only that: some scientific studies suggest that antioxidants can even have negative effects on the body under certain circumstances and promote oxidative stress. "For example, the results of a Finnish study on the intake of antioxidant ACE supplements in smokers are meaningful: Smokers who took these vitamin cocktails had a significantly higher risk of developing lung cancer. These studies were terminated prematurely for ethical reasons," says Neumann. It is also discussed whether too many antioxidants could possibly promote the development of asthma, allergies and obesity.

Basically it can be said that it is healthier for the body if it is supplied with vitamins, minerals, trace elements and secondary plant substances in the form of fresh food and not in a highly concentrated form as food supplements. "Normal foods do not lead to an excess of antioxidants, which could then have a negative effect. If you still want to take antioxidant supplements: Please refrain from smoking," says Neumann.

Is there a dietary recommendation for antioxidants?

There is no special dietary recommendation for antioxidants. Nutrition experts generally recommend a balanced, varied diet that is rich in vegetables and fruit. So the body is well supplied with important antioxidants.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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  • Subjects:
  • Health,
  • Nutrition,
  • Antioxidants,
  • Vitamin C,
  • Vitamins,
  • Vegetables,
  • Fruit,
  • Smoke,
  • Cardiovascular diseases,
  • Diseases,
  • Stress,
  • Minerals,
  • Allergy,
  • Asthma,
  • Dietary supplements,
  • Food,
  • Arteriosclerosis,
  • Cancer,
  • Lung cancer
  • arthritis