In an age of social mania (or media), buzzwords and trending topics like a “keto diet” or “veganism” often appear or tend to trend across various channels. This is solely due to the fact that today, more than ever before, people are taking note of what they put into their mouths and how it affects their health and being. Antioxidants are one such word with health bloggers and fitness personalities endorsing the many benefits of foods that contain the same. Fruits often pop up in such conversations and with good reason. Before proceeding further, let us understand what exactly are antioxidants and what role do they play in our bodies.
At any given time, a healthy human body contains trillions of cells and these are at constant risk all the time; risk from infections and diseases, lack of nutrition and something called free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals produced by the body as a by-product of converting food into energy, these can also be formed post exercise, exposure to smoke, pollution, eating junk food, fried foods and even sunlight. A high number of free radicals in the body can cause a chain of chemical reactions within the body as they interact easily with other molecules; this is called oxidation causing oxidative stress. The idea is to keep free radicals stable and this can be achieved with antioxidants, which lend stability to and safety from excessive free radicals by neutralising them. Free radicals can damage DNA, lipids and proteins within the body if there are more free radicals than antioxidants can handle. This can lead to diseases like diabetes, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart, certain neurodegenerative disease and even cancer.
All in all, antioxidants are crucial to the body’s well-being and came into nutritive limelight around 1990 with a greater understanding of how free radicals were causing clogging of arteries and in turn atherosclerosis. The first trial observations showed subjects with lower intake of antioxidant fruits and vegetables were at greater risk of developing such diseases.
There is a clear link between antioxidants and an overall healthy life. Antioxidants can be found in green tea, vitamin C rich fruits but the highest amount of antioxidants are found in a small polyphenol known as hydroxytyrosol which is found mainly in the fruit, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, nuts and seeds and pulp of olives. Mediterranean countries boast the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease and their high intake of olive oil backs up the argument. Hydroxytyrosol in not very well known as of now but there are other fruits that can contribute an ample amount of antioxidants to the body and keep cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer at bay. A test called FRAP (ferric reducing ability of plasma) can determine the antioxidant content of foods with respect to how many free radicals they neutralise.
Blueberries - low in terms of calories, high in terms of antioxidants and on top of that; tasty. Blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants among commonly available fruits. Certain studies have shown that these can also reduce and delay the decline in brain functions with age by neutralising free radicals and altering the expression of certain genes. The antioxidants in blueberries have also been known to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Strawberries- apart from just being a popular choice (with cream) at Wimbledon, these are probably the most famous berries in the world. Sweet and sour, rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, their red colour is owed to an antioxidant known as anthocyanin (higher the anthocyanin content, redder the strawberry). These significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol. Easily available throughout the year.
Goji Berries- these dry fruits have been a part of Chinese medicine for over two thousand years and are today gaining attention as a “super food” owing to their high mineral, vitamin and antioxidant content. These berries contain a unique and endemic antioxidant called Lycium barbarum polysaccharides, which are known to avert heart disease, cancer, ageing of skin and emphatically raise blood antioxidant levels. The only problem with goji berries is they are expensive and not available commonly.
Raspberries- apart from featuring in desserts like tart, these also feature on our list of high antioxidant fruit due to the high amount of dietary fibre, manganese, vitamin C and of course; antioxidants. These berries are known for their ability to reduce cancer and heart disease. Some studies showed raspberries kill about ninety percent breast, colon and stomach cancer in samples. Black raspberries also reduce and suppress the effects of different cancers while also reducing oxidative stress on the body.
Apart from all the berries mentioned above, these are some other fruits high in antioxidants:
Plums- look for darker or black coloured plums when you shop as these are very rich in vitamin C and phenols(antioxidants known to reduce tissue inflammation , protecting DNA and cells against free radical damage ).
Indian goose berry or Amla and Oranges- everyone knows about the high vitamin C content in these beloved fruits. Vitamin C is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in our bodies, fights free radicals and prevents cell damage, preserves the immune system’s integrity and is freely (not for free) available in India.
Grapes…-green and red especially often chided for their excessive sugar content, loved by even those who don’t like fruit; they contain in their skin an antioxidant called resveratrol, which has been known to halt cancer before it manifests. The skin of red grapes contains the highest amount of resveratrol.
Cherries- contain high amounts of flavonoids, isoqueritrin and queritrin, which eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress thereby slowing down the ageing process of the body.
Mangoes - everyone’s favourite fruit of all time, period; but also, an excellent source of vitamin A and of course antioxidants like flavonoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These are known for healthy skin and vision. Everyone should love fruits, and those who don’t: should begin.
Lycopene in tomatoes, curcumin in haldi and allicin in garlic are well known antioxidants.
Jamuns, phalsa, pineapple, apples are found to be rich in flavonoids.
Dr. Anuja Gaur
Weight management and Diet Therapy