Antioxidants in Foods – Best Sources and Definition

These days, it seems every health product claims that it is full of antioxidants. Yet few Americans seem to even understand what it is, exactly, that antioxidants are in the first place. Luckily the benefits of these magical molecules are very real rather than a contrived marketing gimmick.

 

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To properly understand the effects of antioxidants and what they do, one must understand where they come from and what the best sources are. The majority of antioxidants that are consumed these days, are from completely natural sources such as fruit and vegetables.

What are Antioxidants?

An antioxidant is a chemical that is capable of preventing the oxidation of other molecules. In short, the oxidation process produces free radicals, which can lead to cell damage or destruction.

Not only are these free radicals thought to contribute to or even cause many diseases, but the “free radical theory” is one of the main hypotheses behind what causes human aging in the first place. As such, these molecules seem to have some extraordinary powers that even modern marketing underemphasizes (a true rarity).

Unfortunately, there is still much we do not know about antioxidants. Because the vast majority of their activity occurs at the molecular level and involves very complex chain reactions, it is quite difficult to account for all of the variables. There is a strong likelihood that they contain health benefits that have not yet been identified.

Best Antioxidant Sources

So now that you understand what antioxidants are and what it is they can do, you must surely be wondering where to find them. Fortunately, they are neither expensive nor hard to find. In fact, chances are your local grocery store has a virtually limitless supply.

While blueberries are most strongly associated with antioxidants, the true king of the supermarket is the small red bean with 13727 antioxidant capacity per ½ cup serving. The blueberry comes in second, followed by red kidney and pinto beans.

Cranberries, artichoke hearts, blackberries, prunes and raspberries round out the top ten.
Other excellent sources are strawberries, red delicious apples, granny smith apples, pecans, sweet cherries, black plums, russet potatoes, black beans, plums, and gala apples.

Certain spices and herbs are actually extremely rich in antioxidants, but due to their typical serving size, they cannot be considered for this list. A good rule of thumb is the more deeply pigmented the food, the higher it is in antioxidant activity.

Because there are many different types of antioxidants, it is a good idea to not rely on a single food for your intake. Eat a variety of fruits, nuts, and vegetables and you will find that you are ingesting plenty of these wonderful molecules.

These antioxidant rich foods can also be found in processed or juice form. There are many juices you can drink. Luckily, antioxidants rarely lose their power when converted or extracted, and these days are used in everything from food preservation to industrial manufacturing.

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