Nutrition Tip  
  May 2010
Antioxidants  

Credit my intern Elise Wiersma for this one.

Q: What is all this talk about antioxidants: acai berry, blueberries, and cherries?

A:   Antioxidants are found in many foods and they reduce damage to our bodies. When damage occurs to our bodies (UV light, smoking, etc.) free radicals form; free radicals are a toxin called hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is produced by our body naturally during exercise or fighting infections.  Free radicals can increase the possibility of heart disease and cancer. The antioxidants come in and change the hydrogen peroxide to water and carbon dioxide.

Antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and some meat. Some of the antioxidants are carotenoids, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C. Carotenoids are a building block to Vitamin A and are found in brightly colored and some deep green vegetables like tomatoes, spinach and broccoli. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and can be found in fish, peanut butter, whole grain wheat germ and other foods.  Vitamin C is found in citrus, strawberries and potatoes.

There are many other antioxidants that are found in foods that are not vitamins or minerals but are phytochemicals. These are found in most foods like acai, blueberries and cherries. It is important to eat a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need because each food offers different nutrients. While there is great benefit from antioxidants, there is a caution to not take a lot of supplements in addition to drinking juice and eating a lot of fruit. It is hard to overdose on antioxidants with food alone. If you consume too many antioxidants, they could become pro-oxidants and cause damage. This is not to discourage fruit or vegetable consumption, but be aware of supplements may not be necessary if you are already getting enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains in!!

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