Everyone seems to be hyping up antioxidants these days. But if you ask the average Joe, “exactly what are antioxidants,” chances are you’ll get a blank stare in return.
Food manufacturers and dietary supplement companies make bold claims about the power of antioxidants, and they sell a lot of products by doing so.
In this article, I’ll help dispel some myths about antioxidants, explain what they are, and show you what foods are high in antioxidants.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that may help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules that attack healthy cells.
When healthy cells in your body are damaged by these free radicals, they’re more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, inflammation, and other conditions.
Types of Antioxidants
|Type||Antioxidant Rich Foods|
|Betacarotene||sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, pumpkin, mangos, green leafy vegetables like collard greens, spinach, and kale|
|Lutein||green, leafy vegetables like Swiss chard, spinach, kale.|
|Lycopene||tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, grapefruit|
|Vitamin A||liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks, and mozzarella cheese.|
|Vitamin C||most fruits and vegetables, cereals, beef, poultry, and fish|
|Vitamin E||almonds, wheat germ, safflower oil, corn oil, mangos, nuts, broccoli|
|Glutathione||avocado, asparagus, broccoli, garlic, tomatoes|
|Coenzyme Q10||beef, chicken, pork, broccoli, nuts, seeds, oils|
|Lipoic acid||broccoli, liver, beef, yeast|
|Flavonoids||berries, nuts, beans, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant|
Antioxidants Health Benefits
Food companies are quick to tout the miraculous health benefits of antioxidants. But remember, they’re trying to sell you products, so they’re not the most objective source of information.
Here’s what the research shows about the effect antioxidants have on certain health conditions.
According to the American Cancer Society, there’s “considerable laboratory evidence that antioxidants may slow or possibly prevent the development of cancer.”
However, data from recent clinical trials is less clear. Several large-scale clinical trials showed inconsistent conclusions about the effect antioxidants have on cancer.
See also: Capsaicin Health Benefits
In the Women’s Health Study, nearly 40,000 healthy women took vitamin E or a placebo every other day for 10 years.
At the end of the study, heart disease (and cancer) rates were similar between the two groups, meaning vitamin E does not appear to help prevent heart disease.
In the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, several antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene) did not help decrease risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, or cardiovascular death.
See also: List of Foods High in Potassium
The Physicians’ Health Study found that taking the antioxidant beta-carotene may help moderately reduce cognitive decline.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that taking a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc may help protect you against advanced age-related macular degeneration if you’re at high risk for this disease (but not cataracts).
Lutein, a naturally occurring carotenoid found in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, may also work to protect your vision.
According to a 2012 study, a new and powerful class of antioxidants called synthetic triterpenoids could one day be a potent treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
In animal model studies, these antioxidants blocked development of Parkinson’s disease. However, more research is needed on this one.
It’s clear that free radicals contribute to chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
It’s less clear though exactly what effect antioxidants have on helping prevent and/or alleviate these conditions. Most studies to date have been inconclusive.
However, despite all the efforts to eat properly, there is a possibility that you still do not supply the body with an adequate amount of antioxidants.
Why is that so?
For the simple reason that the highest and most effective concentration of antioxidants and nutrients is found in foods that are natural, grown in an organic way.
However, how many people today are able to say that they consume this type of food every day?
The biggest problem of today’s food production is in the soil which is depleted of minerals and nutrients, necessary for the proper growth and development of plants.
The cultivation of the same areas from year to year, uncontrolled pollution of the soil with pesticides and dangerous chemicals, has led to the fact that today’s food is very poor in minerals such as selenium, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium.
The only way we can feed our body with these important natural compounds is by consuming organic food.
However, if we are not in a situation to constantly search for tested and certified products, we have no choice but to occasionally turn to natural supplements.
If you are skeptical when it comes to antioxidant supplements, you just need to choose only natural formulations without additives and you can’t go wrong.