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Antioxidants – our health police force

What does coffee have in common with fruit, vegetables, cereals, red wine, tea and cocoa? All of these foods contain substances known as antioxidants. These are natural ingredients that can protect our body’s cells from harmful influences. Antioxidants are contained in vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances. If you eat a balanced and varied diet – as suggested in the food pyramid – then you should be assured of an ample supply of these important food ingredients.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants – protective substances for our bodies

When we are under stress or exposed to cigarette smoke or are sunbathing, and even when we are simply breathing, processes are taking place in our body that we call ‘oxidation’. Oxidation produces substances known as free radicals. Our bodies are able to intercept a certain amount of these aggressive compounds and prevent possible damage to cells in this way. Only when free radicals are created in excess are they capable of harming us. Antioxidants help us get rid of free radicals. They counteract oxidative processes and make free radicals harmless. In this way, they help maintain a natural balance in the body.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants in foods

Among the best-known antioxidants are Vitamins C and E, carotenoids, the trace elements selenium and zinc, along with a number of secondary plant substances, including sulphides, phyto-oestrogens, polyphenols, and carotenoids (such as beta carotene, that the body converts into Vitamin A). The following table provides an overview of the most important antioxidants and the foods in which they are present.

 

Antioxidant

Characteristics / Sources

Carotenoids) beta-carotene Found as the yellowish-red colouring present in carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, apricots and mangos, and is also present in broccoli, spinach and kale.
Vitamin C Gives citrus fruits, currants, kiwi fruit, strawberries, peppers and many other fruits and vegetables a pleasant, fresh and slightly sour tang.
Vitamin E Occurs mainly in vegetable oils. You should be sure to try out the high-quality vegetable oil, THOMY GOLD Rapeseed & Sunflower Oil
Selenium Is principally obtained from animal-based foods, such as meat and fish.  However, it is also contained in vegetables, potatoes and fruit.
Zinc Is contained in both animal and vegetable-based foods. However, the body is better able to utilise zinc from animal-based foods. Thus, we primarily meet our need for zinc by eating meat and cheese.
Polyphenols Give reddish-violet and yellow fruits, such as cherries, red cabbage, red grapes, berries and apples their colour. In addition, they account for the diversity of colour in green and black tea. Polyphenols are also found in cocoa and coffee beans, where they are responsible for the slightly bitter flavour. It is primarily green, unroasted coffee beans that contain polyphenols. The very first coffee that is made of one-third green beans and two-thirds roasted beans is NESCAFÉ Green Blend
Phyto-oestrogens Are contained in cereals and legumes, such as soybeans and flaxseed. They are also known as plant hormones.
Sulphides Are primarily obtained by eating onions, leeks, garlic and chives. When we eat these foods, we can sense the presence of sulphides as an aromatic and flavouring ingredient.

Antioxidants

Tips for a healthy supply of antioxidants

You should eat a balanced, colourful and varied diet, as recommended in the food pyramid. This will assure that you get adequate amounts of antioxidants. Our tips in the table will show you what it’s all about.

 

Food

Tips

Fruit and vegetables Many antioxidants are located in or just underneath the skin. For this reason, you should avoid peeling fruits, if possible. Just wash them thoroughly under running water. Then, you won’t have to worry at all about hygiene. The basic idea is: anyone who maintains a diet that is balanced and varied with lots of fruit and vegetables will usually be well supplied with antioxidants as well. Experts in nutrition recommend that you eat five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. As far as possible, select those fruits and vegetables that are in season, as they will be especially fresh and rich in vitamins, and of course, because they are simply delicious.
Cereals Most of the antioxidants are found in the surface layers of the cereal grain. For this reason, you should favour whole-grain cereal products. This is also important for providing you with adequate amounts of dietary fibre.
Coffee, green tea, cocoa, chocolate, red wine By nature, coffee is also rich in antioxidants and thus can help protect the cells in our body from free radicals. So, moderate coffee consumption is not only delicious but also good for you. You should also be sure to enjoy the mild flavour of a hot cup of green tea or homemade hot chocolate. From time to time, you might opt for a piece of chocolate, especially one with high cocoa content, such as dark chocolate. The higher the proportion of cocoa, the greater the quantity of antioxidants in the chocolate.

There is also no reason not to enjoy an occasional glass of red wine, either, as red wine provides significant amounts of antioxidants and is richer in antioxidants than white wine. Of course, for both chocolate and wine, you do need to be careful about the quantities that you consume. A tip: instead of drinking red wine, you might sometimes have a glass of red grape juice, which will also provide you with antioxidants.