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 from IFT right arrow

Entrées Ace the Freezer Case

Brands old and new vie for space with on-trend SKUs that are plant-based, clean label, gluten-free, high protein, and globally influenced.

The Scoop: How Ice Cream is Made

This column details how the process and ingredients involved in making ice cream contribute in equal measure to the frozen treat’s creamy, smooth texture and consumer appeal.

Time and Money Reset Dinner Dynamics

This article explores the impact of inflation on dinnertime meal patterns.

Resilience, Hope, and Mercy

Consultant and nutrition specialist Mercy Lung’aho advocates for a healthier food system throughout sub-Saharan Africa. She shares how a blend of life experience, cultural awareness, and political savvy inform her daily work as a scientist and challenges her peers to prioritize interdisciplinary dialogue to address food system challenges.

Personal, Planetary Health Drive Snack Formulating

An update on the trends in healthy snacks and the ingredients used in formulating them

IFTNEXT

Sucralose–carbohydrate combo may affect insulin sensitivity

A study found that people who drank beverages that contained the low-calorie sweetener sucralose did experience metabolic problems and issues with neural responses but only when the beverage was formulated with both sucralose and a tasteless sugar (maltodextrin).