What are Antioxidants?

Oxidation and Free Radicals
Oxidation occurs naturally to our bodies for various reasons including pollution, poor diet, and aging, amongst other things. As oxidation persists, it creates an excess of free radicals in our bodies which cause damage to our bodies proteins, cells, and genes. Free radicals float around our bodies trying to replace missing electrons which causes oxidation. Studies show oxidation to be the root cause of many diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, macular degeneration and alzheimers. Researchers believe oxidation also plays a major role in the aging process.

What are Antioxidants?
Simply put the word antioxidant means anti (against) – oxidation. Antioxidants are a group of natural chemicals that our bodies need to help fight against oxidation. Antioxidants help destroy free radicals caused by oxidation and prevent them from causing damage to our bodies. Antioxidants are composed of thousands of natural chemicals found in foods. Antioxidants include vitamin A, C, E, beta carotene, flavonoids, phenols and anthocyanins. Research shows these natural antioxidants to be highly beneficial to our bodies.

ORAC Chart
Oxygen radical absorbance capacity or ORAC measures water soluble antioxidant levels in foods and their ability to absorb free radicals. The higher the ORAC levels of a food, the greater the amount of antioxidants present, thus the greater chance of destroying free radicals and potential diseases that may affect the body. Foods that scores above 40 are considered to be extremely high. Berries with dark or red pigments tend to score the highest on the ORAC chart.

Health Benefits of Antioxidants in Berries
Studies show consuming a regular diet high in antioxidants will help prevent numerous diseases including heart disease, macular degeneration, stroke, alzheimers, cancer, diabetes and more. In particular, research shows Anthocyanins provide many benefits to humans including cardiovascular health, memory retention, improved vision and reduced risk of hypertension. A study conducted by Gary Stoner Ph.D., of the University of Ohio shows just how powerful berries are in their cancer fighting abilities. During the study two groups of rats were injected with high levels of cancer-causing agents, one group was left alone and the other was fed a diet rich in Antioxidants from berries, specifically black raspberries. The results were overwhelming with 60%-80% fewer malignant, cancer causing tumors found in the rats fed an antioxidant rich, berry filled diet. Bottom line, keep berries in your daily diet.

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Sources:
Holloway, Patricia, Roxie Dinstel and Roseann Leiner. University of Alaska Fairbanks. Department of Plant, Animal and Soil Sciences.

Oregon State University. Department of Food Science & Technology

Stoner, Ph. D. Gary. “Black Raspberries Show Multiple Defenses in Fighting Cancer.” Research Communications Department at the University of Ohio.