What is an Antioxidant?

cherries-unionsquareIn my recent research on antioxidants — foods that keep your body’s cells from aging — I was not surprised to find that berries rank very high in antioxidants.

With all the hype on “antioxidant this”, “antioxidant that”, it’s regular ole’ berries like blueberries and blackberries that can provide the body with some serious defense against oxidation, a natural process in the body that causes cells to age and decay.

What Causes Oxidation?

antioxidant-rich-kaleOxidation occurs when oxygen molecules attach themselves to cells. The oxygen we breathe doesn’t do this, but upon physical stresses (smoking or getting sun damage), normal oxygen is transformed into oxygen free radicals that will do the damage. So how do antioxidants help you? They are the scavengers for those free radicals and grab them before they damage your cells, cool right? Also, they play a part in preventing the development of diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts an many others.

Antioxidants exist in nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that we eat. They also exist in enzymes already present in your body (proteins in your body that are in charge of damage control. Who knew all the power was hidden in that raspberry I just ate! That brings us to the question: Why are most berries and dark colored fruit loaded with antioxidants? In fact, just one cup will give you all the antioxidants you need for an entire day, wild eh?

Clinical Proof

blackberriesIn laboratory studies, the researchers found that berries like blue berries, elderberry, black currant and chokeberry, due to their dark pigments have the potential to provide many health benefits, such as protection against cancer — that also goes for the pigment in black and purple grapes!

Then there is the Acai (ah-sigh-ee) berry from the Amazon, that you can find in dried form that has 10 times the antioxidants of grapes and twice the antioxidants of blueberries. Don’t fear, if you can’t find Acai, prunes also rank extremely high in antioxidants, triple the amount you’ll get in blueberries.

So how much should you be getting? There is no set recommended daily allowance for antioxidants, however, health experts say you should be getting a regular dose of antioxidants from a well-balance diet of fruits and veggies. Supplements aren’t necessarily the safest way to go. Next time you’re ready to reach for that sweet afternoon snack, make it a few prunes and almonds instead of that candy bar, or munch on a cup of fresh blueberries to get your antioxidant dose.

Related Posts

  • Want to find out about other foods that are antioxidants? Read my post on coffee.
  • Read more about the antioxidants in chocolate.
  • Read about the FDA ruling on safety for vitamins and supplements.

Post first published in October 2007

Comments

  1. Who have not heard all about the great health benefits of antioxidant rich foods in your diet. about these free-radical fighting antioxidants help you look and feel younger by slowing down the aging process
    Antioxidants also help you to recover better from exercise – and that means you can build more muscle and burn more body fat in the long term!

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