Q: What is an Antioxidant? What are Some Good Sources of Antioxidants?
July 31, 2012
Culinary Nutritionist Andrea Canada imparts her knowledge on the benefits of antioxidants and identifies some common sources.
You may have noticed that more and more grocery store items are beginning to display the message “Now with antioxidants!” or something to that effect. Products like cranberry juice and green tea have boasted about their antioxidant content for quite some time now. Just last week I saw a two liter bottle of soda advertising its antioxidant content (more on this later). It’s important to understand what antioxidants are and how they can benefit you so that you can make an informed decision next time you do your grocery shopping.
Antioxidants are substances found in food (or beverages) that may protect our cells from highly reactive molecules called “free radicals.” Free radicals are molecules that can form as the result of normal body processes or through harmful environmental exposures such as cigarette smoke or radiation. These unstable molecules can damage our body’s cells and DNA, and may play a role in the development of cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Our bodies may use antioxidants to neutralize these reactive free radicals before they can cause damage to our cells.
Vitamins C and E, carotenoids and selenium are antioxidants and foods containing these are an important part of a balanced diet. Rather than getting your antioxidants from dietary supplements or highly processed foods with antioxidants added (that soda that boasted antioxidants actually had vitamin E added), I recommend consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables and other foods containing these nutrients. Below are some common foods and the antioxidants that they contain:
- Citrus fruits, red and yellow peppers, berries, dark green vegetables and tomatoes all contain vitamin C
- Dark leafy greens as well as orange fruits and vegetables like winter squash, carrots, cantaloupe and mango are sources of beta-carotene
- Seafood and whole grains are sources of selenium
- Vegetable oils, nuts and nut butters, whole grains and legumes contain vitamin E
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