Antioxidants in Food

Shantha Kalia

Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals, which may play an important role in heart disease, cancer, and certain other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Examples of dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, vitamins C, E, and A, and phytochemicals such as lycopene, lutein, and quercetin.  Flavonoids, indoles, lignans, polyphenols, and copper are other kinds of antioxidants found in foods.

Health Benefits of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are capable of neutralizing free radicals, which may form due to exposure to environmental factors including tobacco smoke, radiation, chemicals, and as a byproduct of metabolic activity in the body.  Antioxidants can counteract the physiological process of oxidation, which is normal yet damaging to cells.  A diet rich in antioxidants is good for your heart health and helps lower diseases such as cancer and other infections.

Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidant-rich foods are usually high in fiber and low in saturated fat and cholesterol content, making them a healthy alternative to supplements.  The amount of antioxidants in food is dependent on several factors including moisture level of the soil, temperature, etc.  Antioxidants are abundant in many foods including fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and nuts.  

Berries rank high in antioxidants content.  The Himalayan goji berry, acai berry, and wild blueberries rank highest in the list.  Other berries rich in antioxidants include blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries.  Dried berries are also rich in antioxidants.  Apples, plums, kiwis, papayas, apricots, cantaloupe, watermelon, and cherries are among the other antioxidant-rich fruits.  The most common antioxidants in fruits include flavonoids, lycopene, vitamin C, and E.

Broccoli is a popular vegetable among children and adults.  It is very rich in indoles and vitamin C.  Other vegetables include corn, leafy green vegetables including beet greens, artichokes, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables including cabbage and cauliflower, pumpkin, carrots, leeks, onion, garlic, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, kale, bell peppers, etc.  Beta-carotene, flavonoids, indoles, lutein, lycopene, and vitamins are present in most vegetables.   

Beans and Legumes:
Red kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans abound in antioxidants such as copper, vitamins, and lutein.

Walnuts and pecans contain vitamins, zinc, copper, and manganese.

Cinnamon, oregano, and ground cloves are rich in antioxidants.

Other foods that are rich in antioxidants include coffee and tea, red wine, seafood, lean meat, green tea, sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, and milk.  Eggs, liver, and butter are rich in antioxidants.

We cannot completely avoid damage caused by free radicals, and a diet rich in antioxidants cannot be a cure-all for heart diseases or cancer, but can slow progression and worsening of disease symptoms.  

Antioxidant Supplements

Consuming antioxidant-rich foods is better than using supplements on a regular basis.  There are no conclusive studies to support the evidence that large doses of antioxidants can combat chronic diseases.  Extremely high doses of antioxidants may lead to other health problems such as diarrhea, bleeding, and risk of toxic reactions.  The American Heart Association does not recommend using antioxidant supplements until research studies show promising results.  Eating a healthy diet rich in plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes will provide most of the antioxidants your body needs to maintain a healthy life.

Sources for this article include:

About the Author: Shantha Kalia is a health care professional at a New York City hospital. She completed her masters in Public Health, and has worked in various capacities in health care for over 15 years. She is a freelancer and contributes articles to various websites on various medical and health-related topics. Her interests include health and wellness, diet and nutrition, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To read more articles by Shantha, please visit
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This entry was posted in Alzheimers, Cancer, Diet, Food, Health and Wellness, Healthy Recipes, Heart Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Vitamins and Minerals and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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