It is popularly known that fruits are a healthy food option, but the specific reasons fruits are good for us are perhaps a little vague to most people. Almost all fruits are high in various vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for energy, effective immune function, and the repair of damaged cells and tissues. Yet there is another category of elements that many fruits contain that have a different purpose: antioxidants. The word may even be familiar to many consumers, but how do antioxidants help us, and what are the best sources of antioxidants?
In the simplest terms, an antioxidant is any chemical compound that inhibits oxidation, a type of chemical reaction in which a molecule loses electrons. While that doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad thing, oxidation can cause the creation of particles called free radicals; these particles have the potential to damage cells, including the cell membranes and our DNA. This damage happens at the molecular level as the free radicals “steal” electrons from other molecules. Antioxidants, then, prevent this process from happening by essentially giving up their own electrons.
In the absence of sufficient levels of antioxidants, the body can experience what is known as oxidative stress. This condition is defined as the imbalance between the production of free radicals and the introduction of antioxidants, either through dietary sources or synthesis. When oxidative stress is present in the body, the extra free radicals can cause a wide variety of negative effects in different body systems. This is primarily because changes to the number of electrons in a substance can alter its function in deleterious ways. Below are some examples of conditions that can be caused or worsened by free radicals:
Though many sources of antioxidants come in dietary supplement form, recent research has indicated that antioxidants are more effective when in the form of actual whole fruits and veggies. In fact, some antioxidant supplements can even have the reverse effect—contributing to the creation of free radicals rather than inhibiting them. The truly best way to incorporate sufficient antioxidant content is through actual dietary sources.
Even though any compound that counters the production of free radicals from oxidation can be considered an antioxidant, the term is typically reserved for a select number of substances that are naturally found in foods. The antioxidants most familiar to us are classic food label names like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. In truth, though, there are many different types of antioxidants found in food; below are some common examples of antioxidants and the fruits that contain them:
As noted above, the presence of free radicals can have many negative effects on the body and our overall health. The potential damage to our health and body systems can come in the form of cigarette smoke, ultraviolet rays, air pollution, and countless other forces we encounter every day. Research shows that we benefit from having high antioxidant activity in order to counteract oxidative stress, but there are also some limits on what antioxidants can actually do for us. Some food labels, for instance, make bold claims about antioxidant supplements slowing the aging process or curing cancer, but the evidence doesn’t really support such claims.
In reality, having antioxidants as part of a regular, balanced diet is the best way to realize their health benefits. Indeed, part of the reason for a focus on antioxidant content in recent decades is that the lack of them was linked to developing many of the chronic diseases listed earlier. Having a diet that includes antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Though some of these foods may even be now considered “superfoods,” they are just one part of an overall healthy way to live.
Harnessing the full flavor and health content of fruits is one of the hallmarks of the products FruitSmart offers. While not all fruits have the same antioxidant levels, all of our products are high quality, healthy components that can be utilized in various ways. Our wide variety of juices, concentrates, essences, and seed products are packed with flavor and can be a valuable additive to virtually any food or beverage product.
At FruitSmart, one of our main goals is to provide innovative solutions for our partners’ needs. If you are looking for healthy, antioxidant-rich fruit products, contact us today for more information. We are happy to provide a product list of all our available ingredients, but we also stand ready to work with you on developing nutritious solutions for any project.