Q: Are all antioxidants the same?
A: Wonderful question! The world of antioxidants is a surprisingly vast one: in fact, there are thousands of varieties, with researchers discovering new antioxidants on a regular basis. The term â€œantioxidantâ€ refers not to a type of nutrient, but rather a quality of a nutrient - vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc. that have the ability to help stabilize abnormal cells and free radicals generated by stress and aging. While freeradicals are a byproduct of basic metabolism, antioxidants are key to keeping cellular damage to a minimum. It goes without saying their benefits are an invaluable aspect of our health regimens!
While all antioxidants share the same basic quality of being free radical fighters, there are some differences in just how they work within the body. Here are a few of the exciting antioxidants that are currently gaining momentum in medical communities:
Anthocyanin is the antioxidant that naturally gives berries, grapes, red onions, and kidney beans their vibrant blueish-purple color. In addition to fighting free radicals, anthocyanin-rich foods have been traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, and the common cold. And regarding disease prevention, anthocyanin has shown promise reducing risks of coronary heart disease, obesity, and breast cancer. It has even been linked to helping improve eyesight! Cherries, cacao beans, elderberries, acai, and pomegranate are excellent and delicious superfood sources of anthocyanin.
The antioxidant that gives tomato products their bright red color is lycopene, which has been studied extensively for its role in preventing certain cancers. Medical studies have linked diets high in lycopene to a reduced risk of prostate cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease, and macular degeneration (eye) disease. In addition to tomatoes, goji berries are a true lycopene powerhouse as well!
You can find the strongest concentration of naturally occurring chlorogenic acid in raw green coffee beans. Studies have linked this unusual antioxidant to not only aid in the prevention of premature aging, but also a lower risk of liver disease, a reduced risk of forming gallstones, and even a boost for weight loss. Other foods that contain chlorogenic acid are tea, apples, blueberries, eggplant, pears, and flax.
Many orange and yellow fruits and vegetables get their coloring from carotene, an antioxidant that has been studied for decades because of its protective properties against cancer and cardiovascular disease. In human studies, carotene has shown promising use for oral leukoplakia, sunburns (carotene is widely considered a very strong skin protector), and cataract prevention. Carrots and sweet potatoes are two of the most common natural sources of this powerful antioxidant, but superfoods like goldenberries, goji berries, and lucuma are fantastic additions!
Chlorophyll is the pigment that makes plants green and helps them absorb sunlight through photosynthesis. But for humans, chlorophyll aids in restoring and replenishing our red blood cells. One of the most widely celebrated antioxidants around, chlorophyll has been linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer, fighting arthritis, digestive health, and building a stronger immune system. Good superfood sources of chlorophyll are wheat grass, spirulina, and leafy greens like kale and spinach.
Resveratrol has gained a lot of attention and popularity as an antioxidant because of its high concentration in red wine. By increasing levels of good cholesterol in the body, reducing inflammation, and protecting against artery damage, resveratrol can help prevent heart disease. Foods like blueberries, red grapes, and especially mulberries are also amazingly rich sources of resveratrol for the body.
Remember, antioxidants are plentiful in many types of nutrients and thus, many types of whole, plant-based foods. More antioxidants is not necessarily better, which is why supplements aren't recommended here. Rather, it's about getting a wide variety of antioxidants on a regular basis from natural food sources. Eat the rainbow and reap the rewards!