Antioxidants have been a “buzz” word for some time now. Everywhere you go, people are touting the benefits of eating foods high in antioxidants. Yet, there seems to be a bit of confusion about what you should eat and why you should eat it. I once had a patient ask, “you need oxygen to live, why would I want to eat something that is anti-oxygen?”
Antioxidants are nutrients and enzymes in our food that can slow or prevent the damaging effect of free radicles in our body. Free radicals appear in our body as the by-product of our cells using oxygen for essential processes. These free radicals are an unstable molecule in your body so it attacks other cells, proteins or DNA to try and gain an electron to become stable. This is the same process which gives you rust on your car, turns a peeled apple brown or turns oil rancid.
It is impossible to avoid free radicals. Free radicals arise from inside and outside of our body. Natural processes such as aging, breathing, normal metabolism and inflammation in the body can make free radicals. Outside factors such as sunlight, pollution, aggressive exercise, radiation, x-rays, smoking and alcohol cause the body to have free radicals in it.
We cannot avoid free radicals but we can do our best to counteract their effects. Antioxidants are so effective in the body because they can donate an electron to the free radical without damaging itself, thereby helping to repair damage and assisting in preventing the aging process. Antioxidants assist in fighting infection and help lower the risk of cancer formation. Antioxidants also help play a role in preventing other chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and arthritis.
So what are the top antioxidants?
Vitamins A,C, and E Minerals such as Copper, Selenium, Manganese and Zinc. Phytochemical’s such as anthocyanins, lycopene and flavonoids are all so beneficial to a persons health and vitality.
Antioxidants are responsible for the bright and vibrant colours in fruits and vegetables, the flavour in coffee, tea and extra-virgin olive oil and the oh so beautiful bitter taste in dark chocolate. Here’s a chart breaking down the highest anti-oxidative foods according to USDA.
|Rank||Food item||Serving size||Total antioxidant capacity
per serving size
|1||Small Red Bean (dried)||Half cup||13,727|
|2||Wild blueberry||1 cup||13,427|
|3||Red kidney bean (dried)||Half cup||13,259|
|4||Pinto bean||Half cup||11,864|
|5||Blueberry (cultivated)||1 cup||9,019|
|6||Cranberry||1 cup (whole)||8,983|
|7||Artichoke (cooked)||1 cup (hearts)||7,904|
|12||Red Delicious apple||1 whole||5,900|
|13||Granny Smith apple||1 whole||5,381|
|15||Sweet cherry||1 cup||4,873|
|16||Black plum||1 whole||4,844|
|17||Russet potato (cooked)||1 whole||4,649|
|18||Black bean (dried)||Half cup||4,181|
|20||Gala apple||1 whole||3,903|
In summary, eat foods that vary in all types of colours, but use some common sense. Fresh, healthy, non-processed food is the way to go. You can’t get your anti-oxidants out of a soda pop bottle! In the end, your mother was right, just eat your fruits and veggies!!