In our previous post, we gave an overview of what antioxidants are, why they are important for our health, and where we can get them from. In this post, we will elaborate a little more on a controversial topic we thought you may enjoy reading about. Many people ask questions about what is the food with the highest antioxidants, or, what is the most powerful antioxidant? Do these questions really matter in the context of our health?
As a little reminder, antioxidants are important molecules that help our body fight against the “bad” effects of oxygen-derived free radicals. It is estimated that each cell in our body is attacked by 10,000 of these free radicals every day. Our body has ~40 trillion cells, and if you multiply that by 10,000, then we end up with a crazy number. Our body needs a continuous supply of antioxidants to be able to eliminate these free radicals. It would, therefore, make sense to focus on the foods with the most powerful antioxidants to effectively fight these free radicals, right? There is even an official website where you can see what food has the highest ORAC value. Again, does it really matter? Shall you focus on the top-10 best antioxidant foods from this list?
Well, this matter is not so simple and we will explain why. We usually put all antioxidants in the same bucket as if they were interchangeable. That is not correct. The term “antioxidants” includes tens, if not, hundreds of different molecules that have unique chemical and biological properties. While it is true that a diet high in antioxidants is good for your health, diets high in antioxidants that come from a limited number of foods do not provide the same benefit. Remember, diversity is everything. Antioxidants work like instruments in an orchestra. You can play Beethoven with a trumpet or many trumpets, but you will never be able to get the same magnificent result as when all the instruments play.
Many efforts have been made to identify the most effective single antioxidant and put it in pills, but the results are rather disappointing. The reason these studies failed, is because antioxidants work together as a team to fight free radicals and they complement each other. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to include as many different types as possible in our diet and we should try to get them from natural products.
To conclude, does it matter if lingonberry, matcha green tea, or chaga mushroom is the food with the highest antioxidants? No. What matters to your health is diversity, and the best way to achieve this is to try to include many different antioxidant-rich foods in your daily diet.