A group of three people walk among giant fruits, vegetables, chocolate and tea.

Is There Power in Antioxidants?

You may have heard about antioxidants. Antioxidants are a compound naturally found in many fruits and vegetables that may help protect against some forms of disease.1

Studies have questioned how much of a role antioxidants play in health versus other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. But learning about the sources of antioxidants can be helpful when you are living with type 2 diabetes.1

What are antioxidants?

Different types of antioxidants include:1

  • Carotenoids
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Tannins
  • Flavonoids

Antioxidants can be found in foods like:1

  • Berries
  • Dark chocolate
  • Red wine
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Nuts

Specifically, carotenoids can be found in – you guessed it – carrots! Sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, corn, and spinach also contain carotenoids.1

How can antioxidants benefit health?

Fruits and vegetables contain ample amounts of antioxidants. Daily intake of fruits and vegetables is part of a well-balanced type 2 diabetes eating plan. Antioxidants can prevent or delay oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is when cells are damaged by unstable molecules called free radicals.2

Free radicals

Free radicals occur naturally when your body turns food into energy during digestion or when exercising. Free radicals can also come from outside sources like air pollution and cigarette smoke. In recent studies on cells and in animals, antioxidants have been shown to prevent damage caused by oxidative stress.2

What about antioxidant supplements?

It's widely accepted that antioxidants that come from eating fruits and vegetables may be beneficial to health. However, there is debate about whether taking supplements with antioxidants actually has advantages. There is also concern that taking antioxidant supplements in large doses may be harmful. Therefore, it is recommended that the best way to intake antioxidants is through food.2

Diabetes-friendly ways to eat more antioxidants

Because antioxidant supplements are not widely recommended, here are some ideas for food that contains antioxidants. Along with antioxidants, these foods contain nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats, which all offer great value when living with type 2 diabetes.

  • Enjoy frozen berries in oatmeal or in smoothies.
  • Add berries, apples, and oranges to salads.
  • Add spinach to soups or pasta sauces.
  • Snack on hazelnuts and pecans in a trail mix.
  • Choose whole grain bread with whole oats.
  • Love chocolate? Enjoy dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
  • Leave the skin on apples, carrots, and potatoes.

When you make half of your plate vegetables, you are increasing your antioxidant intake and paving the way for a satisfying and diabetes-friendly meal! Make the other half of your plate lean meat and a carbohydrate such as berries or apples. This way, you will give your body the necessary nutrients to best manage your diabetes.

If you have questions about antioxidants, reach out to your doctor or registered dietitian.

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