What are Antioxidants?
Q: What are antioxidants?

A: Antioxidants play an important role in overall health. They are natural compounds found in some foods that help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are substances that occur naturally in our bodies but attack the fats, protein and the DNA in our cells, which can cause different types of diseases and accelerate the aging process.

Q: What foods are the best sources for antioxidants?

A: The best antioxidant sources are fruits and vegetables, as well as products derived from plants. Some good choices include blueberries, raspberries, apples, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, eggplant, and legumes like red kidney beans or black beans. They’re also found in green tea, black tea, red wine and dark chocolate. Usually, the presence of color indicates there is a specific antioxidant in that food.

The keyword here is variety. Try to get as many fruits and vegetables with different colors when you plan your meals and go to the grocery store. An array of color in your diet will give you the widest range of beneficial antioxidants.

Q: Does it matter whether the produce is cooked or consumed raw?

A: Depending on the particular food, cooking temperatures and methods can sometimes increase or decrease antioxidant levels. The important thing is that you eat antioxidant-rich foods, so go with your personal preference for preparation—as long as it's not deep frying!

Q: Are added antioxidants as effective as those that occur naturally?

A: Yes, vitamins such as C, A  and E can be added to foods – and they often are, such as in orange juice. One of the things those additives do is act as antioxidants in the body. There is no significant physiological difference between the added antioxidants and the ones occurring naturally in the food source. However, there’s also no evidence that taking antioxidant dietary supplements work as well as the antioxidants found in food products. It’s important not to overdo it on supplements because there can be too much of a good thing. With food products, it would be extremely difficult to consume an excessive amount of antioxidants.

Q: Is there a specific amount of antioxidants consumers should aim for each day?

A: There is not a set recommended daily allowance (RDA) for antioxidants, but the new MyPlate tool based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you make half your plate fruits and vegetables.  If you aim to do that at most meals, you can be sure to get the antioxidants you need. 

More Food Facts

The Microbiome: You are What You Eat

The microbiome is the genetic material of all our microbes—bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses - that live on and inside the human body. Microbes outnumber our human cells ten to one.

The New Nutrition Label

The new Nutrition Facts Label is based on updated food consumption data, nutrient recommendations, the 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and consumer behavior trends. These updates are reflected in the changes required in the label design, nutrient list, and serving size.

Dinner Party Tips and Tricks – Powered by Science

Have you been looking for a way to up your dinner party game? IFT Food Facts compiled results from some recent peer-reviewed studies to help you do just that – by incorporating science into your meal.

More from IFT right arrow

Packaging That Meets Shelf-Life Goals

The article describes how packaging can be used to extend the shelf life of foods.

Creating Food Processing Opportunities in Nigeria

This column explores the issues that are holding back the food processing industry in Nigeria.

How IoP Can Connect the Packaged Food Value Chain

The article describes Internet of Packaging and how technologies and systems within this area can facilitate new packaging mechanisms to improve branding, tracking, tracing, food safety, and sustainability.

How Caviar Is Processed

A step-by-step description of the way in which caviar is produced and processed.

New Bioprocesses May Reduce Cost to Produce Low-Calorie Sweetener

Separate research from the University of Illinois and Tufts University have examined new bioprocesses for producing tagatose in a more cost-effective manner.

IFTNEXT

Caffeine shown to reduce weight gain and fat accumulation

A recent study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that caffeine consumption may help to mitigate some effects of an unhealthy diet by reducing lipid storage in fat cells and triglyceride production.

One Philly cheesesteak—hold the sodium

The high sodium in a Philly cheesesteak may be a contributing factor to the alarming number of Philadelphia residents with high blood pressure. Food and culinary researchers at Drexel University recently developed a food product that helps Philadelphians continue to enjoy cheesesteaks without guilt.

Rice bran helps reduce malnutrition in infants

Researchers at Colorado State University wondered whether supplementing weaning foods with rice bran would improve the outcomes of malnourished infants.