A varied diet, which guarantees an adequate intake of fruit and vegetables, contributes to make us live long and healthy. In fact, it can help to keep cholesterol, blood sugar and body weight under control, it provides nutrients to strengthen the immune system and to protect the gut. But the benefits of a healthy diet don't stop there. In fact, as evidenced by a review published a few days ago in the journal Nutrients (Kazmierczak-Baranska et al, Nutrients, 2020), a healthy diet provides important nutrients capable of repairing DNA damage caused by free radicals that could lead to brain degeneration and tumors.
Stress, polluted environments but also aging increase the levels of free radicals. These substances, when present in high quantities, can cause DNA damage. Our body is equipped with mechanisms capable of repairing this damage but if the damage is too high or if there is a lack of some nutrients it is possible that the repair processes are not efficient. So what are the nutrients capable of counteracting the action of free radicals and promoting DNA repair processes? The review names the four main substances, which should never be missing, zinc, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E. Selenium, which is found in whole grains, seafood, nuts, especially Brazil nuts, fights the action of free radicals and works to eliminate them from the body. Not only that, based on a previous research, it seems that selenium supports DNA repair processes and is also anticancer. Zinc, found in peanuts, legumes, seeds, meat, whole grains, milk and cheeses, is a crucial element for the well-being of the organism but also for the stability of the DNA. In fact, zinc supports the action of specific proteins aimed at identifying DNA damage and at selecting the most appropriate repair mechanisms. Vitamin E, found in olive oil, butter, avocado and leafy greens, is one of the most powerful antioxidant substances capable of fighting free radicals while vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, mangoes and vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes and peppers, as well as having an antioxidant action, preserves the stability of the DNA. A reduction in the intake of vitamin C is in fact linked to an increase in DNA lesions.
Unfortunately, an unbalanced diet, caused by a stressful life, by the willingness to lose weight or by a lack of appetite that can sometimes be observed in the elderly can cause a deficiency in these nutrients. This is why it is important to ensure a varied diet that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, to prevent any heart, brain or degeneration problems and improve the quality of life. As for the sources of these nutrients, it would be better to integrate them with food. In fact, supplements should only be taken in case of demonstrated deficiency and under medical supervision because if low levels of zinc, selenium and vitamins are harmful, so are excessive values.