Health / Wellness / Healthy Eating

What Are Antioxidants and Where Can We Find Them In Food

By Addie Roberts

April 19th, 2020

Last updated: April 19th, 2020

Our body works hard every moment to keep our organs functioning, limbs moving, and brains working their best in our day to day lives and busy schedules. Not to mention it works to digest food, adapt to environmental stressors, and other obstacles life throws our way among all of the other tasks each day. Our body internally is handling hundreds of these processes every minute, and some of these processes may cause “oxidative stress” internally. Oxidative stress is an imbalance in your immune system when it is overworked, and your body does not have time to fully recover. This imbalance causes “free radicals” to form, which damage cells and cause inflammation and other damage internally. However, “antioxidants” are compounds that neutralize this oxidative stress and prevent damage such as chronic diseases that can occur if oxidative stress is left unchecked. These beneficial, neutralizing antioxidants can be found in many foods we eat! Antioxidants can be a food component themselves or specific vitamins such as vitamin c, vitamin e, and some minerals can also act as antioxidants in our bodies as well to neutralize free radicals and prevent cellular damage.

It’s important to note that we cannot prevent our bodies from having oxidative damage altogether. Normal processes that our bodies go through every minute like breathing and walking and using our muscles can cause this oxidative damage. More extreme circumstances such as pollution and environmental toxins, smoking tobacco, over-exercising without proper recovery time, and consuming a diet high in processed foods can cause even more oxidative damage above and beyond our typical day to day activities of daily living. When left unchecked, or when paired with a diet lacking in proper nutrients to combat this damage, this oxidative stress can lead to many chronic problems and diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer. So, avoiding additional excessive oxidative stress where you can is critical for our overall health, as well as including foods rich in antioxidants to prevent damage that also occurs in our bodies day today. When incorporating antioxidants into a well-rounded diet, we can avoid the damage from our daily activities from turning into one of these more severe health problems.

Where Can We Find Antioxidants In Food?

Fruits and vegetables of all varieties will contain antioxidants and/or beneficial vitamins such as vitamin C or vitamin E that can act as antioxidants in our bodies as well. But other healthy foods are also nutrient-dense and can operate in this same way as well. Some of these foods would be beans, walnuts, pecans, herbs and spice, and even dark chocolate. When consuming these foods in a well-rounded diet, we are providing our bodies with health from the inside out, rather than just eating to be full. It is essential to eat a variety of foods to ensure you’re meeting all of your needs, but prioritizing some of these nutrient-dense foods each day can increase your overall health long term.

Antioxidants are found in a variety of foods such as fruits and vegetables and are most concentrated in foods sometimes called “superfoods.” Superfoods are typically fruits, vegetables, or other grains that are highly concentrated with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Such high concentrations of these make these foods an excellent way to increase health and pack in as many nutrients as you can with the food you eat. Some superfoods that are high in antioxidants include berries, pomegranate, leafy greens, broccoli, other brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and walnuts. To increase your consumption of antioxidants in your diet, try to include at least one of these foods each day! 

By Addie Roberts