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Antioxidants as Fat Fighters

Written by: Anika Christ, RD, CISSN, CPT - Life Time Fitness

Antioxidants are one of the most highly studied nutrition components.  They are best known for fighting off disease or preventing aging, but did you also know they can positively impact your waistline? A new study shows just that and brings some new excitement around these well-studied molecules. 

Although antioxidants roles are well known amongst medical professionals, the general population might be unclear as to what they are and exactly what they do.  If we clearly understand how they work, we might make a better effort to ensure we are getting enough of them on regular basis. 

How do antioxidants work?

I always explain antioxidants through the use of a metaphor related to cutting an apple.  If you cut an apple in half and leave it on the kitchen counter, it eventually turns brown because of its exposure to oxygen.  But, if we add lemon juice to the apple, we can slow down that browning (or oxidation process).  Think of the lemon juice as a powerful antioxidant.  Antioxidants protect your cells against damage.  As our bodies use oxygen, we create byproducts known as “free radicals” that can cause damage to our cells and lead to premature aging and chronic diseases, such as cancer. Antioxidants, in turn, can repair free radical damage and slow down or prevent further damage to our cells. Just like the lemon juice and the apple.  

Antioxidants and health

Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants has been previously shown to support liver function, brain health, cardiovascular and immune function.  A recent study, based out of universities in Brazil and Spain, analyzed total antioxidant intake among young adults each day.  The adults that had high intakes of antioxidants each day had less central body fat, smaller waistlines, as well as lower glucose and cholesterol levels when compared to the other participants.[i]

Because oxidative stress can further lead to health conditions such as medical syndrome, high cholesterol or type II diabetes, the study’s conclusions further emphasizes the need for a diet rich in these powerful molecules.      

Increasing antioxidants intake

One of the best ways to boost antioxidants in your day is to up your intake of fruits and vegetables.  Antioxidants are most abundant in these foods groups, but can also be found in spices, herbs, nuts, seeds, cocoa, and some grains. Typically a food is given an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) value if it is considered rich in antioxidants. Adding up the ORAC values among your foods can be a great way to gauge whether you are getting enough total antioxidant each day. The average person takes in a total of approximately 1,200 ORAC units each day, but recommended intake is at least 5000 for optimal health. This is why it might be beneficial to take an antioxidant supplement or multivitamin rich in antioxidants.  Spectra Reds is a unique blend that can be easily added to a morning smoothie. With an ORAC value of 5000, it’s a great insurance policy for your antioxidant load. 

Below are some powerful antioxidants and the foods in which you can find them. Aim for a serving from each group every day!

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


[i] Dietary total antioxidant capacity is inversely related to central adiposity as well as to metabolic and oxidative stress markers in healthy young adults.  Helen Hermana M Hermsdorff.  University of Navarra and University of Pamplona.  

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