Antioxidants are compounds that can protect us from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants in food are called phenols, such as those found in cranberries, blueberries, and red wine. Phenols are also found in other foods, such as asparagus, black pepper, and some vitamins.

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Antioxidants are a group of chemicals found in foods that help to protect our cells and tissues from damage caused by free radicals (such as pollution, radiation, and food additives). In more recent years, there has been much talk of the benefits of antioxidants, with many researchers claiming that they can fight cancer, boost immunity, enhance brain function, and reduce the risk of heart disease and other diseases. Is this hype justified?. Read more about antioxidant foods and let us know what you think.

A Quick Look

Only if you understand what oxidation is will the term “antioxidant” make sense. At its most basic level, oxidation is a chemical process in which a molecule loses electrons, causing the original component’s characteristics to alter. That white and crisp apple you cut 12 hours ago? Oxidation has turned it dark and somewhat squishy. Oxidation is inhibited by antioxidants. Aside from browning apples, oxidation has a role in a variety of disease processes as well as aging. As a result, consuming antioxidants via food may help us remain healthy and age gracefully. Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and phenols are the primary types of dietary antioxidants, and they’re plentiful in colorful plant foods like berries, dark leafy greens, cacao, herbs / spices, and other rainbow-colored fruits and vegetables.

Overview

To comprehend what an antioxidant is, it is necessary to first comprehend what oxidation is.

Oxidation is the loss of electrons at its most fundamental level. When a compound loses electrons, the characteristics of the compound alter.

Let’s look at some instances from actual life:

Iron nails that have not been corroded are robust and have a dark silvery grey hue. It will, however, change color and lose its structure as it oxidizes, ultimately converting to a reddish-brown powder. All of this occurs as a result of oxidation. When a fruit starts to brown, we can observe oxidation at action. When you chop an apple, the inner flesh begins to turn brown very fast as electrons are lost. Similarly, rusting cars, digestion, and exercise are all oxidation processes.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that may cause harm, including cell or tissue damage, as a result of oxidation. Many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and others, are believed to be caused by this damage. It’s not that oxidation is bad; it’s simply that when it’s out of control, it may be harmful.

Antioxidants are therefore (as you may have guessed) anti-oxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radical damage by inhibiting the oxidation process by “providing electrons.” If you slice an apple and then sprinkle it with powdered vitamin C (an antioxidant), like in one of the images above, the apple will not discolor.

Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and phenols are the most common types of dietary antioxidants. While selenium, zinc, manganese, and a few other minerals are often referred to as antioxidants, they are really co-factors in the antioxidant activity of other substances rather than antioxidants themselves.

Although antioxidants may contain both commercial and body-produced compounds, this article focuses on dietary antioxidants, which are antioxidants found naturally in complete meals.

Importance

Oxidation is a natural process that occurs in the human body. It’s a natural byproduct of digestion, exercise, overexposure to the sun, and the aging process. Toxic exposure, such as alcohol, cigarette smoke, and environmental contaminants, may also cause oxidation.

Dietary antioxidants guarantee that we age well, fight illness, and heal correctly, whether after exercise, an infection, a sunburn, or a skinned knee, thanks to their capacity to counteract the oxidation process.

Because oxidation is a constant, we need antioxidants on a regular basis. Antioxidants may be found in abundance in entire meals, especially colorful vegetables. So long as we consume an antioxidant-rich diet (read: plates piled high with colorful vegetables), we can keep oxidation at bay.

Sources of Food

The greatest sources of antioxidants, as previously stated, are found in colorful plants. In general, the darker the pigmentation of a plant, the more antioxidants it contains. Purple cabbage, for example, has more antioxidants than normal cabbage, which is light green.

Despite the fact that there is a lot of overlap, certain foods are stronger providers of particular antioxidants than others.

Vitamin A

  • It may be obtained in the form of retinol from animals or produced from beta-carotene found in plants.
  • Fat-soluble
  • Animal liver and cod liver oil are good sources, as are dark green, yellow, orange, or coral-colored plants (e.g. kale, collard greens, carrots, squash, mangos, oranges, goji berries, apricots, watermelon)

Vitamin C

  • Because it is heat sensitive, it can only be found in raw or barely cooked plants.
  • Water-soluble
  • Red pepper, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and berries are all good sources (especially acerola cherries and a rare Amazonian berry called camu camu)

Vitamin E

  • There are eight distinct chemicals in this mix: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma) (alpha, beta, delta, gamma)
  • Fat-soluble
  • Nuts, seeds, whole grains (especially the germ component, such as wheat germ), and leafy greens are all good sources.

Carotenoids

  • Alpha-carotene, astaxanthin, beta-carotene, canthaxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin are some of the chemicals found.
  • Dark leafy greens, spirulina, tomatoes, guava, goji berries, salmon, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all good sources.

Phenols

  • Plants generate phenols, also known as phenolic compounds, which are a family of chemicals. (They may also be synthesized or generated by microbes, but this page focuses on the dietary variety that comes from entire foods.) Although they are not considered necessary nutrients, their antioxidant qualities make them beneficial to one’s health.
  • Green tea, black tea, chocolate, red wine, berries, herbs / spices (e.g. turmeric, clove, oregano), vegetables, coffee, olives, and extra virgin olive oil are all excellent sources.

Deficiencies

While clinical deficiency in the antioxidant vitamins [vitamin A (which includes carotenoids), vitamin C, and vitamin E] may occur, phenol deficits are rarely recognized since they are not deemed necessary.

A vitamin A, vitamin C, or vitamin E shortage will cause distinct symptoms (for additional information, see the individual vitamin entries), but a general lack of antioxidants in the diet may not show such predictable patterns.

However, it is well understood that a lack of dietary antioxidants renders a person more susceptible to oxidative stress (uncontrolled oxidation in the body), which is believed to be at the root of many diseases.

What function supplements have in oxidation control is yet unknown. However, a healthy diet rich in antioxidants is unquestionably important for overall health.

What’s the best advice for “getting enough”? At every meal, turn your plate into a rainbow of beautiful whole foods.

Excess/Toxicity

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get an excessive amount of antioxidants just via diet. However, as previously stated, it is unclear what function supplements have in oxidation control.

Free radicals have a function in the body, and oxidation should occur as a normal and healthy component of human metabolism, despite popular belief that they are “bad guys.”

It’s all about balance when it comes to oxidation management, not making it go away entirely, so be sure you know what you’re doing before you start taking antioxidant supplements like crazy, thinking “more is better.”

Instead, try a bowl of blueberries.

Recipe

Check out the entries for any of the food items listed in this article for an antioxidant-rich dish.

Book of Free Recipes

Every month, the Encyclopedia of Food grows as we include new delicacies and stunning food photography. Simply click this link to keep up with the latest news. Following that, we’ll give you a complimentary copy of our recipe book. We’ll also notify you when we introduce new and tasty items to the site.

For a free copy of the Encyclopedia of Food recipe book, go here.

Antioxidants help neutralize the free radical molecules that damage tissues in the body. One theory is that they help protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Anti-oxidants also are thought to slow the growth of cancer cells and provide protection from heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cataracts. There are hundreds of different antioxidants, which range from vitamins, to herbs, to foods and plant extracts. But which ones you should eat depends on your goals and your age.. Read more about simple antioxidant-rich lunch recipe and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What food is highest in antioxidants?

Blueberries are the highest in antioxidants.

What is the most powerful natural antioxidant?

The most powerful natural antioxidant is vitamin C.

How can I get antioxidants naturally?

Antioxidants are found in many fruits and vegetables.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • list of antioxidants
  • how do antioxidants work
  • antioxidants
  • antioxidant vitamins
  • antioxidants supplements
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