You may have heard a lot of people talk about antioxidants. They do a lot of important jobs like keeping you healthy, by preventing the effects of ageing. But most of us dont really understand what they are and how they really work.
So what are Antioxidants? How do they work? How to get them?
Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances although poor diet, pollution, smoking & drinking means that a lot of people don’t have enough of them. An antioxidant is a molecule that stops the oxidation of other molecules (which is a good thing).Antioxidant compounds found in natural foods that neutralize or ‘mop up’ molecules called free radicals that can harm our cells. Damage caused to cells by free radicals is linked to certain diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. The best sources of antioxidants are fruits, vegetables, nuts and wholegrains.
So why are free radicals so harmful?
Some conditions caused by free radicals include:
- It can cause damage to the eye lens, which contributes to blindness
- Inflammation of the joints leading to arthritis
- It can damage the nerve cells in the brain, which can cause Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease
- It accelerates the ageing process
- it increases the risk of coronary heart disease
- Even certain cancers, triggered by damaged cell DNA.
So a diet rich in antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. Antioxidants eat up the free radicals from the body cells, and prevent or reduce the damage caused by oxidation. Thus to prevent our body from the damages done by the free radicals, we need to take these antioxidants regularly.
The following is a list of different kinds of antioxidants and foods that are high in each.
- Allium sulphur compounds: Leeks, onions, garlic
- Anthocyanins: Eggplant, grapes, berries
- Beta carotene: Pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, parsley
- Catechins: Red wine, tea
- Copper: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts, legumes
- Cryptoxanthins: Red peppers, pumpkin, mangoes
- Flavonoids: Tea, green tea, red wine, citrus fruits, onion, apples, strawberry, blueberry
- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
- Lignans: Sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables
- Lutein: Corn, leafy greens (such as spinach)
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon
- Manganese: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Polyphenols: Thyme, oregano
- Selenium: Seafood, offal, lean meat, whole grains
- Vitamin C: Oranges, berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers
- Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, seeds, whole grains
- Zinc: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Zoochemicals: Red meat, offal, fish
Here is another chart, it should help consumers trying to add more antioxidants to their daily diet.
|Rank Food item||Serving size||Total antioxidant|
|Capacity||per serving size|
|Small Red Bean (dried)||Half cup||13,727|
|Wild blueberry||1 cup||13,427|
|Red kidney bean (dried)||Half cup||13,259|
|Pinton bean||Half cup||11,864|
|Blueberry (cultivated)||1 cup||9,019|
|Cranberry||1 cup (whole)||8,983|
|Artichoke (cooked)||1 cup (hearts)||7,904|
|Red Delicious apple||1 whole||5,900|
|Granny Smith apple||1 whole||5,381|
|Sweet cherry||1 cup||4,873|
|Black plum||whole Cup||4,844|
|Russet potato (cooked)||whole Cup||4,649|
|Black bean (dried)||Half cup||4,181|
|Gala apple||whole Cup||3,903|
Information from the United States Department of Agriculture