While oxygen is vital for human life, metabolized oxygen creates a different effect. Through the process of oxidation, free radicals which are unstable molecules are created. These free radicals damage healthy cells and DNA. However, the damage can be prevented with the help of antioxidants. So, what are they and what are the top 10 sources for it?
What Are Antioxidants?
As mentioned, antioxidants are powerful and potent substances that prevent the cell and DNA injury triggered by free radicals. These substances are found in vegetables and fresh fruits which prevent oxidation in the body. While these are abundant in plant food, it can also be found in poultry, fish, whole grains, and nuts.
However, there are other sources called non-nutrient which include phytochemicals found in plants. It has a more significant antioxidant effect compared to that of minerals and vitamins. Examples of these can be found in tomatoes and cranberries. As for the specific antioxidants and its sources, these include the following:
- Allium Sulphur: found in garlic and leeks
- Anthocyanins: found in berries, eggplants, and grapes
- Beta-Carotene: found in spinach, carrots, apricots, pumpkin, parsley, and mangoes
- Catechins: found in tea and red wine
- Copper: found in milk, lean meat, nuts, and seafood
- Cryptoxanthins: found in pumpkin and red capsicum
- Flavonoids: found in onion, red wine, green tea, apples, and citrus fruits
- Indoles: found in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli
- Isoflavonoids: found in peas, lentils, soybeans, and tofu
- Lignans: found in whole grains, sesame seeds, and bran
- Lutein: found in corn and spinach
- Lycopene: found in tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit
- Manganese: found in lean meat and seafood
- Polyphenols: found in oregano and thyme
- Selenium: found in lean meat, whole grains, and seafood
- Vitamin A: found in carrots, sweet potatoes, egg yolks, and liver
- Vitamin C: found in broccoli, mangoes, blackcurrants, oranges, strawberries, and kiwifruit
- Vitamin E: found in avocadoes, seeds, vegetable oils, and nuts
- Zinc: found in milk, nuts, seafood, and lean meat
- Zoochemicals: found in fish, offal, and red meat
Benefits of Antioxidants
Even though the body already produces it, it is not enough to counter the effect of free radicals. So, increasing one’s intake can certainly help against eye, heart, and memory problems. A specific antioxidant benefits a certain part of the body.
Keeps Eyes Healthy
Beta-carotene, as well as other carotenoids, help keep the eyes healthy.
Keeps Heart and Prostate in Top Shape
Lycopene not only helps in keeping the heart healthy but the prostate as well. Flavonoids are also significant for heart health.
Keeps Urinary Tract Healthy
Proanthocyanidins help keep the urinary tract functioning well.
A combination of Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and astaxanthin help in protecting one’s skin from the reactive types of oxygen that damage proteins, DNA, and cellular lipids. These species of oxygen lead to premature skin aging, skin cancers, and photodermatoses.
Supports the Immune System
Beta-carotene along with astaxanthin enhance one’s immune system. The antioxidant content of spirulina also boosts one’s immune system.
Top 10 Sources
Antioxidants come from the food you eat, but which among the food sources are rich in it. Plus, how can one measure the antioxidant content? Luckily, scientists have developed a test to help quantify the amount of antioxidant a specific food has.
This test is called FRAP analysis or the ferric reducing ability of plasma. FRAP analysis measures how much are contained in a specific food. Take note that the higher the value of FRAP, the greater the antioxidant content.
While it isn’t a common addition to the diet, artichokes are an excellent source of antioxidants. Moreover, it contains minerals and dietary fiber. Its FRAP analysis states that it has approximately 4.7 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. The method of its preparation can either double or reduce the antioxidant content. For example, frying it may lessen the content whereas boiling or steaming it may increase antioxidant content.
Apart from being rich in antioxidants, beans are also significantly rich in fiber. Based on the FRAP analysis, beans have approximately 2 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. As mentioned, a certain type of antioxidant can be found in a specific food. For beans, the pinto variety carries the antioxidant known as kaempferol, which has been linked to the suppression of cancer growth. It is also connected to a decrease in chronic inflammation.
The FRAP analysis shows that blueberries carry more than 9 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. Compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries are packed with the highest antioxidant content. The anthocyanins found in blueberries help lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol as well as decrease one’s possibility for heart disease.
The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant and mineral content it contains. Dark chocolate carries approximately 15 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams.
A superfood, goji berries have 4.3 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. It also contains a unique type of antioxidant called Lycium barbarumpolysaccharides. Such type helps combat aging of the skin and reduces the risk of getting cancer or heart disease.
A cruciferous vegetable like that of cauliflower and broccoli, kale carries approximately 2.7 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. Plus, it is rich in calcium, vitamins C, K, and A.
According to its FRAP analysis, pecans have 10.6 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. Apart from the antioxidant content, it is also rich in minerals and the healthy kind of fat.
This carries 4 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. It is also a decent source of manganese, fiber, and vitamin C.
Also called purple cabbage, red cabbage carries 2.2 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. Moreover, it is a source of vitamins A, K, and C. Much like artichokes, the way red cabbage is prepared can affect its antioxidant content. For example, stir-frying leads to an increase whereas steaming causes a reduction.
Another great source, strawberries have 5.4 mmol antioxidant content per 100 grams. It is also rich in vitamin C.
Tips to Increase Antioxidant Intake
There more than thousands of other substances that perform the same way as an antioxidant. It is vital to have a mixed diet because each antioxidant offers a different function. These tips may help boost your intake.
- Add food that is colorful like berries or kale.
- Add a cup of green tea daily.
- Munch on nuts or seeds, but choose the variety with no added salt or sugar.
- Add veggies or fruits each time you have a meal.
- Spice up your dishes with oregano, clove, ginger, or turmeric.
Even if there is no recommended daily allowance of antioxidants, a significant amount consumed in a day is beneficial for one’s health.