Do you often come across the word ‘antioxidant’ when reading about health, nutrition and skin care? It is recommended to eat a diet rich in antioxidants and use skincare products with ingredients rich in antioxidants for better health and skin. But, what are they really?
‘Anti’ means against and ‘oxidant’ means molecules that form free radicals. Simply put, antioxidants are natural or man-made compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals and oxides in our bodies. “Free radicals are highly reactive atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons and are formed when oxygen interacts with certain stressors. These radicals are harmful to our bodies,” said functional nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan, CEO and founder of iThrive Explained.
Before we understand antioxidants, it is important to understand where these free radicals come from. Aman Puri, founder of Steadfast Nutrition, said, “Our body is exposed to pollution, exposure to ultraviolet rays, cigarette smoke, inflammation in the body, and consumption of highly processed foods.”
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Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist and Dietitian at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore agreed, saying that free radicals are very harmful by their nature, but they are an essential part of our lives. “They are also natural by-products of normal processes in cells. When the immune system is needed to fight off intruders, for example, oxygen is used up from an army of free radicals that cause oxidative blast to viruses, bacteria and the damaged body. destroys cells.
Because free radicals are so widespread, you need a sufficient amount of antioxidants to scavenge them to protect the body’s cells from any damage.
How do Antioxidants Work?
Experts said they work by reducing oxidative damage, reacting with them directly or indirectly by increasing the activity of intracellular antioxidant enzymes. “They are also involved in the DNA repair mechanism and maintain the health of cells,” said Dr. Devi R, Consultant – Reproductive Medicine, Milan Fertility Hospital, Indiranagar, Bangalore.
But, did you know that your body also produces some antioxidants? “Your body’s cells naturally produce some powerful antioxidants like alpha lipoic acid and glutathione. The foods you eat supply other antioxidants like vitamins C and E,” shared Dr. Rohatgi.
Benefits of Antioxidants
Now that we know that antioxidants fight free radicals, let’s understand how they help our health. The expert said a diet rich in antioxidants can reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and some cancers.
Puri elaborates that “they can effectively help reduce the risk of cancer, heart diseases, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). An antioxidant-rich diet can help promote mental health. improves immunity, and delays the signs of ageing”.
Antioxidants and skin
The resultant damage caused by free radicals can also be seen on one’s skin. Naren Prakash, Consultant Dermatology, Narayana Superspecialty Hospital, Gurugram said, “They lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin of the skin, which can take the form of premature aging, inflammation and hyperpigmentation.”
Countering these negative effects are antioxidants that “help prevent oxidative stress that helps prevent signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, loose skin, etc. They cause inflammation of your skin due to sun exposure. They also help prevent photodamage by blunting the reaction”.
Additionally, they also help reduce hyperpigmentation induced by the inflammatory process and accelerate skin repair, she said. So, how does one introduce antioxidants into their skincare regime? “A lot of products claim antioxidant power, but not all are equal,” said the dermatologist, sharing the antioxidants you should be looking for.
,Vitamin A: Often referred to as retinol or tretinoin, it is particularly effective due to its small molecular structure that allows for deeper penetration. It increases cellular turnover thereby helping to prevent wrinkles, fine lines etc.
,vitamin C: Often referred to as ascorbic acid, it is one of the most effective free radical scavengers.
Vitamin E, B3, melatonin, resveratrol, glutathione, polyphenols, ginkgo biloba and coenzyme Q10 are some other commonly used antioxidants for the skin, he added.
In addition to topical application of these antioxidants, Dr. Prakash suggests consuming a diet rich in these to promote the health of your skin.
dietary sources of antioxidants
According to Puri, the best way to consume antioxidants is through plant-based sources such as berries (blueberries, strawberries, and goji berries), bell peppers, broccoli, beets, carrots, tomatoes, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, nuts. is from. dark chocolate, herbs and spices, and others.
In addition, Dr. Rohatgi pointed out that three major antioxidant vitamins – beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E – can be found in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those that have a purple, blue, red, orange and yellow hue. .
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids: Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapes, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, tangerines, tomatoes and watermelon
vitamin C: Berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarines, oranges, papayas, snow peas, sweet potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, and red, green or yellow peppers
Vitamin E: Broccoli (boiled), avocado, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mango, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red pepper, spinach (boiled), and sunflower seeds
Other antioxidants that can help keep you healthy include:
Zinc: Oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains and dairy products
Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry, fortified bread, and other grain products
Cooking Tip: To get the greatest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed. Do not overcook or boil them.
How to consume them?
It is not only the foods that matter but how you consume them. Rohatgi elaborates, “What you eat and how you eat your food, there are many ways that can affect the way nutrients are absorbed by the body. This is why even if you are eating nutrient-rich foods, you may not be getting all the nutrients.”
In such a situation, follow these tips while consuming a diet rich in antioxidants.
,mix foods carefully Bioavailability and assimilation may vary depending on composition, medium for absorption, and the presence or absence of other nutrients.
,Be sure to break down properly by chewing carefully If you are someone who finishes everything on your plate within 5 minutes, there is a high chance that the nutrients will not be absorbed into the body. Chewing breaks down the cell wall of foods, which helps with the absorption of nutrients. Therefore, remember to chew your food slowly and properly to ensure the absorption of nutrients from the food.
,stress free but partially controlled eating Eat every bite with your heart. Also, enjoy every bite you eat as it helps with the secretion of digestive juices in the stomach and allows it to mix with the food you eat.
,eat it or drink it According to the rule, instead of drinking juice, it is advisable to chew your fruits properly and eat them.
,Ensure Good Gut Microbiome Having a healthy gut leads to better absorption and assimilation. It ensures good immunity and also maximizes the absorption of nutrients by the gut. Dietary fiber is known to enhance the absorption of minerals such as magnesium, iron and calcium.
what does ayurveda say
Not only modern science, Ayurveda also supports the benefits of antioxidants. “The chemicals, because of their antioxidant capacity, can prevent and in many cases reverse damage caused by reactive oxygen species. These antioxidants help maintain metabolism, protecting vital organs from damage. For example, this means looking plump, glowing and hydrated. Antioxidants can prevent collagen damage and the appearance of loose skin and hair loss. Anti-inflammatory activity of antioxidants protects the natural color of the skin and hair,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Dr. BAMS), an in-house specialist at Vedax – a beauty brand offering customized modern Ayurveda beauty regimens.
He said that Amla, Haritaki, Guduchi, Punarnava, Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Shatavari, Yashtimadhu, Shankhpushpi, Bhringraj, and Daruharidra are some of the herbs which have strong chemical action and are widely studied by modern scientists for their antioxidant potential. and is documented.
In case these herbs confuse you, “fresh amla juice is excellent when taken regularly to prevent skin and hair problems”. “Lemons, as we know, are a powerhouse of vitamin C. ‘One lemon a day keeps reactive oxygen species at bay’ should be our new formula. Take it with warm water, squeeze it over your lentils or On sprouted grains,” she said.
How much is too much?
While there is no standard recommended amount of antioxidants to take in a day, excessive intake can be harmful to you. “It can cause micronutrient toxicity in the body and may show some minor side effects like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, rashes, dizziness and joint pain,” Puri said.
Agreeing, Pradhan said, “Generally, antioxidants like glutathione have no side effects. However, if one consumes too many vegetables in an effort to obtain antioxidants it can be harmful as most vegetables contain nutrients like oxalate, phytate, tannins, lectins and these can harm your body.
Excess intake of antioxidants can also present some serious symptoms. “Vitamin A may also increase the risk of birth defects. If you are pregnant, always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements for antioxidants because it may also increase your risk of certain types of cancer and your Can reduce exercise abilities. Common side effects of overconsumption of antioxidants are diarrhea, dizziness and joint pain. You may also experience yellow pigmentation of the skin due to the antioxidant carotene. Another rare side effect is skin irritations. The bottom is bruising. Cooking certain foods can increase or decrease their antioxidant levels. If consumed along with certain medications, they may not react well to your body as well,” says Dr. Rohatgi Explained.
While loose stools, constipation and upset stomach are some of the temporary side effects and may disappear, Dr. Devi said high doses of antioxidant supplementation can cause harm and even increase the risk of cancer. “Supplementation with high doses of beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. High doses of vitamin E supplementation may increase the risk of prostate cancer.”
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