What are antioxidants? Quick Scoop
- Antioxidants are compounds produced in your body and found in foods. They help defend your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals.
- The sources of antioxidants can be natural or artificial. Certain plant-based foods are thought to be rich in antioxidants. Plant-based antioxidants are a kind of phytonutrient, or plant-based nutrient.
- Dietary supplements provide antioxidants in the form of vitamins A, C and E, carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as minerals like zinc, and nutrients like CoQ10.
Why are Antioxidants so Important?
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body which is very important for maintaining overall health and prevent aging and diseases.
Your body generates free radicals that can cause harm if their levels become too high in your body. Free radicals are linked to many illnesses like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. We cannot escape free radicals because they are created naturally when we breathe, exercise, and convert food to energy.
Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize free radicals. The body also makes its own antioxidants, but the level of antioxidants depends entirely on the food we eat. Consuming greater amounts of antioxidant-rich foods might help to protect against and fight many diseases.
Healthy Foods High on Antioxidants
The best way to obtain antioxidants is through food. Fortunately, there is a big variety of antioxidant rich foods. Scientists use several tests to measure the antioxidant level.
The best tests is the FRAP (ferric reducing ability of plasma) analysis. It measures the antioxidant value of foods by how well they can neutralize a specific free radicals.
Here is the list of healthy foods that are high on antioxidants.
- Dark Chocolate
Lucky If you love dark chocolate it has high cocoa levels full on antioxidants. Consuming cocoa-rich products like dark chocolate has been linked to impressive health benefits such as less inflammation and reduced risk factors for heart disease. Dark chocolate has on average 10.9 mmol/100g antioxidant level.
Berries are the great sources of antioxidants. They are rich in anthocyanins and other antioxidants. The most antioxidant-filled berries are blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, elderberries and strawberries. The average antioxidant level of berries is between 1.90 – 6.31 mmol/100g.
- Goji Berries
Goji berries are often marketed as a superfood. They are the dried fruits of two related plants rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Based on a FRAP analysis, goji berries contain 4.3 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Beans contain antioxidants in the form of flavonoids, and are also a source of dietary fiber and protein. Beans are a group of legumes that are inexpensive and healthy. It’s inexpensive way to increase your antioxidant intake. A FRAP analysis found that on average beans contain up to 2 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Beets are the great source of fiber, potassium, iron, folate and antioxidants. Also beets
contain a group of antioxidants called betalains that have been linked to impressive health benefits. Based on a FRAP analysis, beets contain up to 1.7 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and minerals, plus contain a high amount of antioxidants. For example, pecans contain up to 10.6 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). Although nuts are a good source of antioxidants, minerals and healthy fats, they are also high in calories. So it’s important to eat nuts in moderation to avoid consuming too many calories.
- Dark leafy greens.
Dark leafy greens are one of the most nutritious products on the planet and are rich in lutein and beta-carotene, two antioxidants, as well as sources of vitamin E, vitamin C and vitamin K. As an example, Kale (bright green with curled leaves) provides up to 2.7 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Which Vitamins are Antioxidants
Ideally, if you follow balanced diet there is no need on adding antioxidant supplements. In reality many people have vitamin and antioxidant deficiency due to poor diet and consumption of processed foods. Dietary supplements may help increase antioxidant intake.
Below is the list of some vital nutrients for you to ensure your daily antioxidant intake.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A can be effective antioxidant and is essential in supporting immune system and eye function.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays an essential role in shaping and protecting our connective tissue and supporting your immune system. Studies show that antioxidant supplements with vitamin C can help prevent cancer in many ways. Also vitamin C fights the peroxidation of lipids, which have been linked to degeneration and aging.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is the major component in the cell antioxidant defense system. It has been shown to be effective against cancer, ageing, arthritis, cataracts and etc.
- Alpha-lipoic acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxdant and it might provide protection to the brain and also be helpful in certain liver diseases. Alpha-lipoic acid can effectively combine vitamins C and E as part of the first line of defense against free radicals.
- Ellagic acid
Ellagic acid is a plant polyphenol and a highly effective antioxidant that inhibits hydroxyl radicals.
- Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), or ubiquinone, helps support heart health and provides antioxidant support to protect cells from oxidative stress. CoQ10 decreases in the body as people age or develop certain diseases (such as other heart conditions, Parkinson’s disease, and asthma). CoQ10 helps fight those diseases and slow down the effects of aging.
Selenium supports the healthy functioning of the immune system, acts as a powerful antioxidant, and is essential for good thyroid health.
Zinc is essential mineral that supports healthy immune system. It is also important for normal growth and development.
The Bottom Line about Antioxidants and their Benefits
Free radicals contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, and vision loss. Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals before they can negatively affect your cells. The higher intakes of antioxidants are associated with a lower risk of chronic oxidative stress-related diseases.