What are Antioxidants?

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Written by: Heather Gerrish, RDN

Antioxidants are a popular descriptor for many foods and beverages we see in today’s market. From antioxidant tea to face wash, what is actually an “antioxidant” …and what does it do? Well, you’re in luck because here we will break down and define what an antioxidant is as well as what they are important for, where to find them and how to incorporate them into your diet! Sounds fun right? Right! 

Let’s go back to the antioxidant “craze”. In many foods at the grocery store today you will find the term “antioxidant”, possibly as a claim on the front label or in the food description itself. Antioxidants actually are most common in fruits and vegetables (thinking back to what those food items were - did they contain or market a fruit or veggie blend? I bet so!). Antioxidants are common in the diets of those who consume a variety of pigments (think about that saying, “eating the rainbow” - that’s what we are talking about!) because some antioxidants are actually specific to certain pigments and some foods have more antioxidants than others! 

So…what is an antioxidant?

By definition an antioxidant is something that prevents oxidation. What is oxidation? Oxidation is the movement of hydrogen atoms (think back to your chemistry classes!) and can be potentially damaging to cells in our bodies. 

Where do you find them?

Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods - with an easy way to increase antioxidant consumption is to include fruits and vegetables in your diet as much as possible. There is a common measure of the antioxidant content of certain foods call the ORAC value, or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. This is used to quantify antioxidant levels in foods. This is less commonly shared on food labels but is still used in some practices for individuals who are attempting to monitor and reach a certain goal for antioxidant intake in their diets. If you are interested in learning more about ORACs visit this blog for more details and overview: https://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk/community/healthy-living/the-orac-system/

How can you incorporate antioxidants into your diet?

When thinking about increasing your antioxidant intake from food - think about dark pigments. A simple way to pick fruits and vegetables that commonly contain greater amounts of antioxidants is actually by color! Certain spices also contain high amounts of antioxidants (cloves, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon) so don’t be afraid to spice things up! 

Reaching for variety is also important. Trying out new foods, flavors and finding those that you enjoy is also essential in creating your own nutrition practice - now, with this additional knowledge of how the foods you eat are doing more than you think (we all love our macros, but now you can think about antioxidant power too!). 

Here is a simple list of foods that you might consider adding to your next salad or to snack on that are packed full of antioxidant goodness! 

  • Blueberries 

  • Raspberries 

  • Spinach

  • Black beans

  • Lentils 

  • Oregano

  • Red Delicious Apples

  • Cherries

  • And so many more! 


(2019/7/30). Retrieved from https://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk/community/healthy-living/the-orac-system/

Heather Gerrish