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.

More from IFT right arrow

Tiny Organisms, Huge Potential

Microbial fermentation is establishing itself as a true third pillar of the alternative protein industry, on par with—and enabling—parallel advances in plant-based proteins and cultivated meat.

Rethink, Retool, Reinvent

How the food chain is (finally) adopting and embracing digital transformation.

Using Neuroscience to Build Brands

Tapping into neurologically based behavior drivers and integrating multiple sensory inputs play key roles in triggering purchase intent.

Sea Change: New Horizons in Aquaculture

Sophisticated technologies coupled with environmental advantages are making aquaculture an increasingly viable approach to feeding a global population hungry for seafood.

Off-Site But On Track: Digital Tools Enable Operations

A review of project management and communication resources to enable remote food processing.

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).

Solving the mystery of wooden breast syndrome

Wooden breast syndrome is a muscle-quality disorder that affects only broiler chickens, rendering their pectoral muscles (i.e., breast meat) tough and chewy. Scientists have made progress in finding the cause of the disorder and a way to manage it.