Walk Talk Nutrition: antioxidants

AntiOxFoodsThe RD team discusses antioxidants.

WTNreducedlogoFree radical molecules are by-products of day-to-day metabolism.  They’re highly reactive, and can damage other molecules.  Too much damage can increase risk for lots of diseases.  Antioxidants to the rescue!

Here the official definition from The Free Dictionary:

An agent that inhibits oxidation; any of numerous chemical substances including certain natural body products and nutrients that can neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals and other substances.

Antioxidants categories:

  1. Terpenes: lycopene is one of the most potent antioxidants, and is especially high in concentrated, cooked tomato products such as sauce and paste. Beta carotene is common in orange fruits and veggies. Limonoids are common in citrus fruits.
  2. Phenols: there are hundreds of types of phenols, such as blue or blue-red plant pigments (blueberries).  Catechins are in green tea, black tea, cacao, coffee, and peaches.  Ellagic acid is found in berries, walnuts and pecans.  Resveratrol is in red wine, red grape skins, and peanuts.  Isoflavones are in legumes, especially soy.
  3. Thiols: commin in cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale.  Allium is found in onion, garlic, shallots, leeks, chives.
  4. Lignans: flax seed is the richest source.  They’re also found in oatmeal, buckwheat, wheat bran, rye meal and barley.  Lignans are an mportant source of phytoestrogens associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.
  5. certain vitamins (C, E) and minerals (selenium, zinc).

Within the first 4 categories, there are hundreds of varieties of molecules with antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are unique to plant foods.  Berries are antioxidant stand-outs, but lots of research has focused on other foods like chocolate, tea and wine.  The table below, adapted from this source, gives antioxidant content in millimoles per servings of the food.   As we discuss, comparing foods based on a normal serving is a far better measure of antioxidant content than comparing based on 100 grams of food.  For example 100 grams of cinnamon may have lot of antioxidants, but no one is going to eat that much cinnamon.


AntiOxDrinkWhat could be wrong with antioxidants?  Use of the word for food marketing purposes, especially when used to sell sugary beverages, processed foods or supplements that may only contain 1 antioxidant.

While there is no official recommended antioxidant intake, it’s easy to ensure you’re eating plenty of them and plenty of variety: eat a plant based diet, with lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Antioxidants aren’t found in animal-based foods.SmartStartCereal





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