Antioxidants – all facts

All facts about antioxidants - www.healthyhappysteffi.com

We all know that we should eat 5-7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily to keep us healthy. But what is in it that is so important for our health??

A large proportion of the positive effect of fresh fruits and vegetables have antioxidants, which are actually formed by plants to protect against highly reactive oxygen produced during photosynthesis. If we then eat these antioxidants (in fruits or vegetables), they also help our body to absorb free radicals that want to damage our cell membranes, proteins or DNA and thus in the worst case can cause cancer.

Although our body can also mobilize antioxidants itselve (in the form of enzymes), depending on how much stress we are exposed to (e.g. by smoking, environmental toxins, fast food), we need additional support from our diet.

Today, I want to give you an insight and overview how antioxidants in our diet help our bodies and which foods contain the highest rates of antioxidants. 

From the beginning: What are free radicals and oxidative stress?

Constant stress, fumes, radiation, chemicals, industrial food, alcohol, smoking, drugs, medicines, inflammatory reactions etc. produce „free radicals“ in our body that have an unpaired electron and thus are very „reactive“. That means they want to „make friends“ with other molecules (e.g. with our DNA or cell membranes) to rob the missing electron from them (= oxidation). This of course creates another free radical, which in turn also goes on the hunt, etc. A certain amount of free radicals leads to „oxidative stress“, which in turn is associated with the following diseases: heart / circulatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, nervous system disorders, diabetes mellitus, digestive tract disorders such as pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, skin and eye conditions, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, lung, and blood diseases and many more.

Plenty of reasons, to float ourselves with antioxidants from now on, right?

artichokes are full of antioxidants - www.healthyhappysteffi.com

 

But what are antioxidants exactly?

Antioxidants are chemical compounds such as vitamin A, C and E and phytochemicals (e.g. carotenoids, lycopene, polyphenols and flavonoids).

They voluntarily give electrons to the free radicals in order to neutralize them without turning into free radicals themselves (actually they do turn into free radicals but only for a very very short instance, e.g. the vitamin E radical, but then immediately vitamin C jumps in to bring it back into the original form. Cool, right?).

However, the positive effects of antioxidants only work if we really eat fresh fruit, vegetables or nuts. Scientists have not yet managed to isolate the antioxidants so that they keep their positive effects  outside the fruit or vegetable. So there are no effective antioxidant pills on the market.

If you want to know how many antioxidants are present in a food, look at its ORAC value. 

ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, so it tells you the capacity of a food (per 100 g) to absorb free radicals. The higher the ORAC value, the better it is to fight against the radicals!

It is recommended to eat foods with a total ORAC value of 5,000 – 7,000 tevery day. The important thing however is that you combine many different antioxidant rich foods (think of beautiful colorful eating, remember that vitamin C vitamin needs to help his buddy vitamin E!!).

eat colourful - www.healthyhappysteffi.com

Below, I listed a few foods (always 100g, and always fresh and organic, because pesticides favor free radicals) and their ORAC value. I’ve picked these informations from several sources. The values ​​sometimes vary slightly depending on the source, but I think this is negligible.

Oh, and if you miss grains, meat or dairy products in the list: I am sorry, they don’t contain many antioxidants.

Fruit:

  • Pineapple: 373
  • Apple (Gala): 2,828
  • Apricots (dried): 1,274
  • Aronia berries (dried): 22,824
  • Banana: 795
  • Dates (Medjool): 2,387
  • Figs: 3,383
  • Goji Berries: 25,300
  • Pomegranate: 3,027
  • Grapefruit: 1,700
  • Blueberries: 4,669
  • Raspberries: 4,882
  • Blackberries: 5,905
  • Elderberries: 14,697
  • Kiwi: 602
  • Mango: 1,002
  • Oranges: 1,819
  • Peach: 1,700
  • Pear (green): 2,201
  • Plums: 5,247
  • Blackcurrants: 5,347
  • Grape seed flour: 100,000 !!!
  • Grapes (red): 1,260

Vegetables:

  • Artichoke: 8,000
  • Cowpea: 4,000
  • Avocado: 2,000
  • Cauliflower: 700
  • Broccoli: 1,700
  • Eggplant: 245
  • Kale: 2,000
  • Potatoes: depending on the variety 1,000-1,700
  • Kidney beans: 14,500
  • Beetroot: 1,700
  • Red Cabbage: 2,000-3,000
  • Black beans: 7,500
  • Asparagus: 2,000
  • Tomatoes (average): 400
  • Spinach: 1,700
  • Sweet potatoes: 2,000
  • Zucchini: 180

Nuts:

  • Cashews: 1,505
  • Peanuts: 2893
  • Hazelnuts: 9,275
  • Almonds: 4,282
  • Pistachios: 7295
  • Walnuts: 13,057

Spices and herbs (here it is of course difficult to eat 100 g):

  • Basil (fresh): 4,805
  • Ginger (fresh): 14,840
  • Ginger (ground): 39,041
  • Cardamom: 2,764
  • Garlic (fresh): 5,708
  • Marjoram (fresh): 27,297
  • Nutmeg: 69640
  • Cloves (ground): 290,283
  • Oregano (fresh): 13,970
  • Sage (fresh): 32,004
  • Thyme (fresh): 27,297
  • Cinnamon: 131,420

Sprouts (fresh):

  • Alfalfa sprouts: 1,510
  • Broccoli sprouts: 1,997
  • Lentil sprouts: 396
  • lucerne sprouts: 854
  • Radish sprouts: 1,750

Cacao and chocolate (Yeah!):

  • Dark chocolate: depending on cacao 13,120-49,926
  • Cacao (raw): 95,500 !!!
  • Cacao (roasted): 26,000
  • Cacao Nibs (raw): 62,100

 

Wow, that was a lot!

I hope I could make you a little smarter today and increase your desire for fruit and vegetables (how about green smoothies?) ;-)

Cheers, Steffi

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