Because early food developers incorporated antioxidants into prepared foods, they enjoy the positive reputation for quality they have today. Recent advances in thermal processing, food additives, packaging and controlled atmosphere have further reduced oxidation of raw materials and continue to extend the quality and subsequent shelf life of foods. One of the most radical improvements of late, however, is not in the food itself, but in the heightened consumer awareness of this ubiquitous oxidation reaction. The relationship between oxygen and human disease is characterized as a lack of the bodys ability to defend itself from oxidation reactions. Many food derived antioxidants targeted for dietary benefits also have substantial benefits as antioxidants for food preservation, a payback for the food product developer trying to solve practical preservation problems while providing health maintenance solutions.
Evidence now exists that several major types of cancer have one or more genes associated with them. As genetic screening becomes an affordable risk-assessment option, there is an expectation that dietary solutions will become even more necessary to manage risks through the use of foods and supplements containing antioxidants.
The FDA may soon make a decision on health claims for antioxidant vitamins with respect to cancer prevention. A letter posted on the FDA website (www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/supplmnt.html) states that the FDA review of the claim for antioxidant vitamins with respect to cancer has been complicated by the large number of new human studies, as well as by the number and different types of cancers in the proposed claim. If these claims are allowed, the impact on the food industry could be positive, since consumers can easily extrapolate their knowledge of vitamins to vitamin fortified foods.
Those looking to increase antioxidant consumption have options other than antioxidant vitamins. Many foods and ingredients contain a host of other compounds that help fight oxidation.
In a lab in Davis, CA, Jennifer Donovan, Ph.D. candidate in the department of food science, University of California, first extracted the antioxidant phenolics of prunes and prune juice. Using high pressure liquid chromatography, she quantified levels of the naturally occuring neochlorogenic acid and a related structure, chlorogenic acid, two compounds in the family of antioxidants called hydroxycinnamates. Donovan performed this work as part of her graduate studies with professor Andrew Waterhouse, department of viticulture and enology. Due to this work and studies at other universities, dried plum purveyors have quite a bit to boast about this year.
Antioxidants in dried plums are a recent addition to the research interests of Waterhouse. In September 1996, an item in the Lancet described Waterhouses work on chocolates phenolic content. He found that its total phenolic content was comparable to red wine (205 mg in 1.5 oz. of chocolate vs. 210 mg in 5 oz. of red wine). However, phenolic content is related not only to the quantity of antioxidants, but also to their ability to inhibit oxidation. Preliminary data showed that cocoa phenols, high in catechins, have even more antioxidant potential than red wine phenols. Waterhouse suggested that the pairing of wine and chocolate might be synergistic, a suggestion that was enthusiastically reported by the international media.
Waterhouse continues to pursue new health evidence in his current research. Simply reporting the quantity and value of antioxidants in foods and beverages is inconclusive to human health, therefore we studied catechin in plasma, and now recently submitted a publication that describes a method to monitor levels of caffeic acid in human plasma and urine. Caffeic acid is a byproduct of neochlorogenic acid after digesting dried plums. It is also a breakdown product of other antioxidants found in wine, coffee and stone fruits.
Two different antioxidants become more effective when they are used together, such as a blend of mixed tocopherols and rosemary extract. We have found that our proprietary blend of soybean oil, natural mixed tocopherols and rosemary extract can be used at levels from 0.03% to 0.10% depending on fat content and food regulations in many applications with excellent results. By using a product that is preblended, less handling and blending is required, says Zoraida DeFreitas, Ph.D., group manager technical services, Kemin Industries, Des Moines, IA.
Regardless of whether the desired benefit is health or the preservation of fresh, flavorful food, or perhaps both, antioxidants will continue to be a hot topic in science, health and the food industry. Elizabeth Whelan, a founder and president of the American Council of Science and Health, New York City, notes that, those of us who protect our health daily and those of us who put our health in constant jeopardy have exactly the same mortality, 100 percent. The difference of course, is in the timing. I believe that epidemiologists should help people learn how to die young at a very old age. The use of antioxidants in foods might be one path to achieve this.
Researchers there analyzed the antioxidant content of more than 100 different food items including coffee, and to their surprise, they discovered that coffee has by far the highest number of antioxidants of all beverages including green and black tea. Furthermore, people who drink coffee are actually getting more antioxidants from it than from the other beverages and food they consume on a daily basis. The study reported that the average number of antioxidants people get each day from the five most commonly consumed foods and beverages with antioxidants are coffee, with a whopping 1,299 mg of antioxidants... tea at 294 mg... bananas, 76 mg... dry beans, 72 mg... and corn, 48 mg.
I called the lead author of the study, Joe A. Vinson, PhD, to find out more about this unexpected finding. He says the biggest surprise for him concerning the study was that Americans are drinking coffee in such large quantities these days. In the course of his research, he discovered that the amount of coffee consumed per capita -- for every man, woman and child in the country -- was 8.4 ounces a day. Given that not all adults drink coffee and that there are virtually no coffee-drinking children, people who are swilling java daily at home and in visits to their favorite coffee bars are getting it in venti portions -- Starbucks lingo for its 20-ounce cup. While coffee doesn't have nearly the number of antioxidants that you can find in some foods, such as cranberries and red grapes, eating these or any other super antioxidant food is not part of everyday life for most people. And, quite frankly, given the poor diet of many, coffee might even turn out to be somewhat nutritional.
Nutritional value, maybe, but definitely not a replacement for a balanced diet. All those antioxidants in coffee aren't necessarily good for you. Dr. Vinson explains that foods often contain several elements that work in a synergistic fashion, and it is the action of the combination -- not a single healthful component -- that explains their contribution to good health. With the exception of coffee's positive association with type 2 diabetes (he is less confident about the reduced cancer risk link), he says that there is not yet any proven health benefit for drinking coffee. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to assume that coffee isn't healthy, he adds. Dr. Vinson admits that before this study, he had negative vibes toward coffee and that this did change his mind. He is still waiting for scientific proof that coffee's antioxidants are indeed good guys in the fight against free radicals, the single-molecule scavengers in the body that have been linked to inflammation and disease and that antioxidants destroy.
To enhance whatever health benefits may be in coffee, there are several considerations that are important. Fortunately for jittery people, the antioxidants in coffee are not in the caffeine. Decaf is nearly as high as the fully leaded variety, so people who prefer it can relax on that front. Given the other health concerns regarding decaf processing, Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, suggests that you make sure to get a product that lists swiss water decaffeination (also called natural decaffeination) on the label. Also, since the full benefits of coffee's antioxidant effects have not yet been fully studied, the more natural the form you consume them in, the better -- so, from a health-promoting point of view, high test is best. I also asked Dr. Rubman about different forms of coffee -- regular, espresso, etc. Again, his view is that the purer the brew the better -- ideal would be "just short of espresso," using freshly ground whole beans.
For people who get their coffee via such drinks as Frapaccinos and others that contain loads of fat and sugar, think again. Dr. Vinson says that fats and sugars, whatever their source, create oxidative stress in the body -- the state of being overwhelmed by free radicals and other destructive molecules. He says that anytime you eat foods that are laden with fat or sugar -- in coffee or on your plate -- it is crucial to also consume a substantial amount of antioxidants at the same time. For example, have a salad with tomatoes alongside your hamburger... eat plenty of fresh steamed vegetables with your steak. This way, as some foods are causing oxidative stress, you are also providing your body with a large number of antioxidants to help eliminate it.
Dr. Vinson closed on a note of good cheer about antioxidants in general. He says that tea -- black or green -- is still the most healthful beverage choice because studies have confirmed the helpfulness of its antioxidants. Furthermore, he reminds people to eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables. There are between 4,000 and 8,000 types of antioxidants and only a diet with a variety of antioxidant-containing foods can possibly deliver the best possible mixture of these valuable health allies.
One of the most important steps you can take to prevent heart disease, cancer, Alzheimers, and Parkinsons is to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants protect your health by preventing and repairing damage caused to your cells by excessive free radicals.
Antioxidants are plentiful in plant foods, particularly those that have bright colors. As of May, 2005, the most comprehensive study of the antioxidant content of common foods was published in the June 2004 edition of the Journal of Agricultural And Food Chemistry.
|1||Small Red Beans, Dried||1/2 Cup||13727|
|2||Wild Blueberries||1 Cup||13427|
|3||Red Kidney Beans, Dried||1/2 Cup||13259|
|4||Pinto Beans||1/2 Cup||11864|
|5||Blueberries, Cultivated||1 Cup||9019|
|7||Artichoke Hearts, Cooked||1 Cup||7904|
|9||Dried Prunes||1/2 Cup||7291|
|12||Red Delicious Apples||One||5900|
|13||Granny Smith Apples||One||5381|
|15||Sweet Cherries||1 Cup||4873|
|17||Russet Potato, Cooked||One||4649|
|18||Black Beans||1/2 Cup||4181|
Fruits: Blueberries, Cranberries, And Blackberries.
Vegetables: Beans, Artichoke Hearts And Russet Potatoes.
Nuts: Pecans, Walnuts, And Hazelnuts.
Spices: Cinnamon, Oregano, And Ground Cloves.
- Because there are many different types of antioxidants that can protect your tissues from different types of damage, it is best to eat a wide range of antioxidant-rich foods.
- How much you benefit from the antioxidants found in the foods you eat depends on how well you breakdown and absorb these foods.
- One of the best ways of making sure that you are getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet is to strive to eat lots of fresh vegetables. If you just don't have the time to eat a large green salad every day, consider buying a good juicer and drinking a fresh vegetable juice on a daily basis. Another more convenient option is to use a high quality super green food product.
- It is best to limit the amount of sweet fruits that you eat according to your dental health and blood sugar and insulin levels.
- When washing and preparing vegetables and fruits, be sure to wash non-organic varieties with extra care to help remove pesticide residues. This is especially important for vegetables and fruits that are known to be heavily contaminated with pesticides.
Raw Chocolate and Goji Berries are two foods that are extremely rich in antioxidants but were not evaluated for the study cited above.
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