Antioxidants are substances that we introduce with food or that we produce: these counteract the action of free radicals, molecules that can damage biological structures such as cell walls, enzymes, DNA. The greater is their presence in the body the higher is the risk of damage.
Some antioxidants such as vitamins C, vitamins E, carotenoids, selenium and zinc have to be constantly in the diet. Other complexes such as sulfur are produced by the body and, when necessary, their levels can be increased with an external supplementation.
There are some methods to measure the antioxidant capacity of food, among which the most famous is the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity test), which expresses the results with specific units of measurement, thus allowing to make comparisons with the literature data foods like fruits and vegetables, and especially allowing refer to the recommended doses of antioxidants, for a good daily protection. The antioxidant power of a substance is defined with ORAC units.
Among the most powerful antioxidants, we have:
- Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant contained in red wine, has strong anti-platelet activity on the formation of atherosclerotic plaque, on the increase in HDL cholesterol and LDL oxidation prevention (a glass has about 7000 ORAC units). There are numerous studies that indicate the exact dose to be introduced with the power to cover the needs of resveratrol: 2 glasses of wine per day.
- Cumin, is the spices with the greatest antioxidant against the hydroxyl radical OH, the most powerful free radical among organic chemistry.
- Lycopene in tomatoes and derivatives (a fresh medium tomato has about 120 ORAC units).
- Brassicas are rich in antioxidants (one serving of broccoli or sprouts has about 1500 ORAC units. The broccoli also contain important amino acids such as arginine, ornithine which have shown strong antioxidant capacity against perossilico and hydroxyl radicals).
- Extra virgin olive oil rich in vitamin E, vitamin antiossisante par excellence.
- Beta-carotene converted into vitamin A content in apricots, carrots and peppers.
- Selenium is present in the animal and vegetable origin foods: wheat and its derivatives are, in our food, the main source of this mineral, which is contained however in other grains, soy, fish and meat.
- Vitamin C is widely present in vegetables and fruits: one of the main sources are citrus fruits, strawberries, black currants, red fruit (a cup of blueberries has about 3500 ORAC units, dark leafy vegetables (broccoli, watercress, spinach, cabbage), tomatoes and potatoes. to maintain the properties of the vitamin C content of foods is necessary to avoid prolonged cooking and it is best to consume fresh fruits and vegetables, which are to be kept away from light and heat but not frozen.
To try to take the daily quota of antioxidants we can follow some rules:
- Vary the quality of vegetables and fruits. The variety of phenol compounds, which we assimilate eating different vegetables, ensures greater protection against oxidative processes in our body.
- Fruit and vegetables should be in season. Vegetables and fruit that is not fresh may have lost some of its antioxidant content.
- Steam vegetables. This cooking process limits the loss of antioxidants to 20% against 70% of the cooking in water.
- Use herbs. They are a major source of antioxidants already in small quantities. Let’s use fresh, but if you cannot dehydrated are good enough.
- Use as a condiment extra virgin olive oil. It is the condiment par excellence: his phenols act as effective antioxidants.
In collaboration with DR. LILIANA GIORGI