When it comes to boosting antioxidant intake, recent research indicates there’s little benefit from taking diet supplements. A better way, according to a report in the September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter, is eating a diet rich in antioxidant-containing foods.
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, carotene, lycopene, lutein and many other substances may play a role in helping to prevent diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration. Antioxidants are thought to help because they can neutralize free radicals, which are toxic byproducts of natural cell metabolism. The human body naturally produces antioxidants but the process isn’t 100 percent effective and that effectiveness declines with age.
Research is increasingly showing that those who eat antioxidant-rich foods reap health benefits. Foods, rather than supplements, may boost antioxidant levels because foods contain an unmatchable array of antioxidant substances. A supplement may contain a single type of antioxidant or even several. However, foods contain thousands of types of antioxidants, and it’s not known which of these substances confer the benefits.
Some of the better food sources of antioxidants are:
- Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries
- Beans: Small red beans and kidney, pinto and black beans
- Fruits: Many apple varieties (with peels), avocados, cherries, green and red pears, fresh or dried plums, pineapple, oranges, and kiwi
- Vegetables: Artichokes, spinach, red cabbage, red and white potatoes (with peels), sweet potatoes and broccoli
- Beverages: Green tea, coffee, red wine and many fruit juices
- Nuts: Walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds
- Herbs: Ground cloves, cinnamon or ginger, dried oregano leaf and turmeric powder
- Grains: Oat-based products
- Dessert: Dark chocolate
Though supplements containing antioxidants are generally considered safe, two recent studies have suggested that taking higher than recommended doses of supplements such as vitamin E over time may actually be harmful and possibly toxic.
In contrast, many foods higher in antioxidants offer an array of health benefits, such as being high in fiber, protein and other vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
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