If you have been shopping for food at any time in the last 5-10 years, you’ve probably seen more than a few products bragging about being full of antioxidants. But how much should you really care, and is it worth the additional cost? Many people do not really understand what antioxidants are. Let’s demystify things a little:
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidant is a term used to describe a broad set of nutrients which help to prevent damage from oxidation throughout the body and repair damage done by free radicals. These nutrients include common vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin E. Fruits are generally very high in antioxidants, although the actual concentration will vary greatly between different types of fruits. Different types of berries like blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries are some of the fruits with the highest concentration of antioxidants.
Is More Always Better?
Although consuming plenty of antioxidants is undoubtedly good, there may be such a thing as too much. Eating tons of antioxidants “just in case,” may not always be a good idea. Many health-oriented foods are packed full of antioxidants. On top of that, many people will eat multiple servings of those foods daily. In extreme cases, eating large amounts of antioxidants may even increase the risk for certain diseases. For example, some studies have found a link between high antioxidant consumption and skin cancer in women and increased lung cancer in smokers. This research is still in it’s infancy, however, so the long term effects of very high antioxidant consumption are not yet fully understood.
So What’s the Bottom Line?
The bottom line is simply don’t go crazy and don’t buy into all the hype. Yes, antioxidants are good for you. However, that does not mean you have to go out of your way to stuff yourself full of them. Antioxidant supplements are probably not necessary as long as you eat a healthy and balanced diet. As part of that diet, include antioxidants in the form of whole fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Simply put, get plenty of exercise and eat well.
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