You've heard the term "antioxidants" before.
I have too. In fact, I've heard it countless times.
If I would get a dollar for every time I hear people recommending to "eat foods high in antioxidants", I'd be a very rich woman. Really!
"Antioxidant" is now a buzzing descriptive word for all foods deemed healthy.
Which explains why you hear recommendations like these:
- eat more berries
- drink green tea
- eat more leafy greens
Eat kale, so and so forth.
One common denominator here is these foods are all high in antioxidants,
And foods rich in antioxidants are known to make you "ageless", "wrinkle-free" and "years younger".
They are the main reasons why we are repeatedly told to eat antioxidant-rich foods.
And all because of the antioxidants benefits, we dash to a drugstore nearby for antioxidants-rich skin products.
So How are antioxidants youthful and healthy?
Despite how common antioxidants have become, still very few truly understand this popular term.
What it means, and how it actually works.
It's quite shocking.
So, I thought it would be worth taking a deeper look at 'what antioxidants are', what they do, and how they work.
With that, you can fully grasp the importance of antioxidants for your health and skin.
So let's get to it.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are a collective group of nutrients— minerals and vitamins that occur naturally in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables (1).
If not taken from foods directly, antioxidant supplements are also widely available at many health foods stores.
These natural occurring compounds are highly valued for their work to prevent or delay cell damage in the body (more on this later).
Some of these minerals and vitamins are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
There are quite many —as you can see.
But, surprisingly, there are more.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of them to counteract the damage effects of oxidation of cells (2).
Because they vary in nutrients, each offers unique benefits to the body and health.
For instances, carotenoids such as beta-carotene are good for your eye health, while lycopene benefits the prostate health. Flavonoids are beneficial to the heart health when proanthocyanidins contribute to the urinary tract health.
This is part of the reason why so many different varieties of foods with seemingly different mineral and vitamin contents can claim they are antioxidants foods.
So what foods contain these valuable anti-oxidative compounds?
While we can not possibly list all foods, you can find natural occurring antioxidants substances in these foods below:
Also before we hop onto "what do antioxidants do?", let's take a brief look of some of the most known antioxidant minerals and vitamins and what foods provide these minerals.
- Flavonols: Flavonols is an antioxidants properties found in dark chocolate, tea, red wine, onions broccoli, kale and buckwheat.
- Vitamin C and A: Vitamin C and A found in kale and oranges are essential for the health of your cells, bones, organs and heart. It is important to get enough of them all to maximize their benefits.
- Lycopene: Lycopene belongs to a general group of more than 600 fat-soluble plant compounds known as carotenoids. Some of the fruits and vegetables that are known to be rich in lycopene are tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya, wolf berry and tomatoes.
- Beta-carotene: While beta-carotene are found in carrots, oranges, sweet potato, spinach, squash, and tomatoes.
- Catechins: Catechins found in tea (green tea is rich in this compound).
All in all, to maintain a high level of antioxidants at all times, nothing is more effective than eating a well-balanced diet.
So, we just learned that antioxidants are nothing but a collection of minerals and vitamins. But the next question I pose is what makes these nutrients really relevant and beneficial?
Let's find out.
What Do Antioxidants Do?
In short, antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage caused by oxidation (3).
Let's pose a second. Realize that there are two relevant parts to this: Oxidants and antioxidants.
- Oxidants = free radicals, damage cells in our bodies.
- Antioxidants = prevent and repair cells in our bodies.
Simply put antioxidants functions as a defense system in your body, helping to protect or prevent cells damage caused by harmful molecules called —free radicals.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are a natural by-product of our many bodily functions (4).
We all know that we need oxygen to live.
In the body, oxygen is vital for the chemical reactions that keep us alive and healthy.
But these reactions also produce free radicals. A highly unstable molecules with unpaired electrons.
Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down foods for use or storage.
But they are also produced when we expose to tobacco smoke, radiation, and air pollution.
These unstable molecules make their way through our bodies, scavenging cells to try to snatch missing piece—electrons form other molecules, damaging those molecules in the process.
Unchecked free radicals—have been linked to all sorts of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease.
Although free radicals have a well-deserved reputation for causing cellular damage, they can also be helpful, too.
"Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, MD", explained—When our immune system cells muster to fight intruders, the oxygen they use spins off an army of free radicals that destroys viruses, bacteria, and damaged body cells in an oxidative burst.
Antioxidants act as bounty hunter thus helping to keep these free radicals in check.
Powerful antioxidant such as Vitamin C found in oranges and kale has been shown to have a positive effect that can help disarm the free radicals.
Takeaway: Antioxidants are believed to fight the formation of free radicals and may help prevent the cells damaged that comes from oxidation.
Benefits of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are a crucial part of our diet because we can’t avoid oxidation.
Think about it.
All of the contaminants, such as air pollution, radiation, car exhaust, sunlight, we get exposed to in day to day basis.
These types of exposures can cause free radicals to gain speed in your body damaging everything in their path and leaving at greater risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Antioxidants is your defense system against these free radicals.
Think of the time you sliced an apple.
I bet the exposed flesh turned from white to brown before you even knew it.
This browning occurs because of oxidation.
Then something magical happens when you apply a drop of orange or lemon juice to the freshly sliced apple.
It keeps it whiter longer.
It's quite amazing how a simple act can keep apple slices looking fresh for a good half of the day.
This is all because of the antioxidant vitamin C in the juice that protects the flesh.
If anything can illustrate what antioxidants do and how they benefit, this would be it.
It helps our body fight off various damages that can occur in daily activities and normal bodily functions.
More technically, antioxidant benefits is simply that it helps maintain balance in our bodies by neutralizing and removing the free radicals from the blood stream.
Eating a diet high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene means better protection for your body and overall health.
And the benefits of antioxidants go beyond the apple, just so you know.
It includes everything from lowering you LDL (bad cholesterol), reducing risk of heart attack and boosting your brain health in the old age.
For example polyphenols, like flavonoids and catechins, all function as powerful antioxidants in the body. And they are all found in green tea.
Multiple studies show that the catechin compounds found in green tea can have various protecting effects on neurons in test tubes and animals models, potentially lowering the risk of disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (5, 6, 7).
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, nearly one million people are living with the disease in the US (8).
Parkinson’s disease involves the death of dopamine producing neurons in the brain (9).
In short, some antioxidants properties have been shown to be effective at protecting the brains while others show to be beneficial to eye and skin health.
Takeaway: Antioxidants are beneficial to our health, including skins, eyes, brain, and prevent cancel cells.
They have been found to reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage.
Antioxidants counteract free radicals damaging effects.
To up your antioxidants in your body, aim 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Below I’ll include a list of antioxidants rich foods.
This list of fruits of veggies includes a wide range of minerals and vitamins—including the grandfather of the traditional of the antioxidants, vitamin C and many others.
Aim at getting 5 to 9 servings per day to take advantage of the antioxidants found in various produce.
These items below are the most antioxidant-packed foods to add to your diet for good health and disease prevention. Data source: WebMD
Top 20 High Antioxidant Foods Table
|Rank||Food item||Serving Size||
capacity per serving
|1||Small Red Bean (dried)||1/2 Cup||13,727|
|2||Wild Blueberry||1 Cup||13,427|
|3||Red Kidney Bean (Dried)||1/2 Cup||13,259|
|4||Pinto Bean||1/2 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 Apple||1 Whole||5,900|
|13||Granny Smith Apple||1 Whole||5,381|
|14||Pecan Nut||1 Ounce||5,095|
|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)||1/2 Cup||4,181|
|20||Gala Apple||1 Whole||3,903|
There you have it!
We just went over what antioxidants are and what antioxidants do.
To recap, antioxidants are nothing but a collective group of minerals and vitamins found mainly in plant-based foods that keep our bodies healthy. And they do that by fighting against free radicals —oxidants.
The list of foods above is full of them, helping us get a load of antioxidants. That's basically the reason why they are often referred to as healthy foods and foods that support our health.
Did this article help answer your questions about antioxidants?
Leave me a comment below or any questions you have about antioxidants.