By Liz DiAlto
When we heard Dr. Oz tell an audience member on Rachael Ray that coffee is one of the top sources of antioxidants, we decided to dig a little deeper to find out the real deal with antioxidants. Mostly because we’d do anything to believe our daily cup of Joe is not only acceptable, but also actually good for us – although also because we hear so much about these antioxidants yet still know so little about what, exactly, they are. So, we dug in a bit deeper, called in the experts and found the answers. So, what exactly are antioxidants and why do we need them? Read on!
According to Dr. Oz, free radicals are an atom or a group of atoms that can damage cells, proteins and DNA by altering their chemical structure. Antioxidants are important because they’re basically the Free Radical Police.
“The damage from free radicals can be prevented by binding the free radical with an antioxidant,” Dr. Oz explained. “Perhaps the key function that antioxidants perform is to handcuff the free radicals, packaging them so that they can be washed out of the body through the kidneys, and preventing them from damaging our cells and chromosomes.”
Bottom line: we’re loading up on the Free Radical Police and you should too! Not sure where to start though? We weren’t either!
According to Dr. Michael Roizen, author of YOU: The Owner’s Manual says, “Coffee is America’s largest source of antioxidants (aside from caffeine, which has its own antioxidant properties). It is chock full (pun intended) of polyphenols and is a great low-calorie fluid when you have cravings. Drink decaffeinated versions to avoid the side effects. The second biggest source of antioxidants? Bananas, which have 7 times less than coffee.”
The Dole Nutrition Institute, though, recommends spinach, kale, other leafy greens, pomegranates, Concord grape juice, blueberries, blackberries, raisins, red cabbage, prunes, raspberries, strawberries, oranges and carrots.
If you’re the type that wants a ranked list of foods to reference, you can check out the ORAC scores for various fruits and vegetables. (ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a method of measuring antioxidant capacities in non-living biological samples). Although these numbers are not based on tests done on living organisms, and therefore not 100% accurate, they still serve as a great guideline.
So, how many of these antioxidant-rich foods do we need? Registered Dietician Erika Renick told us, “The bottom line is that we’re not sure right now how much [antioxidants] we need on a daily basis, but we do know that a balanced diet will provide antioxidants and other nutrients that our bodies thrive on. Load up on fruits and veggies. Remember, the more rich in color or vibrant the fruit or vegetable is, the more packed with nutrients and antioxidants it will be.” Here at The Beauty Bean we recommend sticking with raw antioxidant rich food in order to avoid eliminating their major benefits – although cooked veggies are certainly better than none!