More and more people are shoveling antioxidants in their body with gusto. Sun damaged skin? Just take antioxidants. Trying to prevent heart disease? Drink some POM Wonderful. Want to lower your risk of cancer? Reach for Juice Plus. Now granted, I'm totally making these up but, I hear statements like this from consumers all the time. And, after all, we are bombarded with the message that “antioxidants are good” and we should search for the best sources of these little compounds that fight free radicals and therefore, may, over time, reduce our risk of some types of diseases and conditions. So, where can we get the most bang for our buck?
Despite ORAC scores and other measures of total antioxidant capacity, there is no one best source of antioxidants. These scores only tell us about the total antioxidants within a particular food but they don’t tell us a darn thing about how well our bodies absorb these antioxidants or use them. In a nutshell: ORAC means nothing, nada, for you as a consumer.
And, while there are certain antioxidants with specific functions in our body, lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health for example, there is a lot we still do not know about antioxidants and how they may work synergistically with other compounds and other antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. Therefore, it’s way to premature to rely on just one source of antioxidants from a pill or bottle. Instead, turn back to what dietitians have been talking about for years – eat a diet loaded with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables Why look for color – the color often signifies different antioxidants. And finally, consider antioxidant supplements as just that - supplements to make up for your shortfall. But, look to food first. Because I guarantee you'll come up short when you don't consume the recommended 2.5 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit daily.