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"Don't Fall for the Antioxidant Supplement Hype: The Importance of Getting Them from a Healthy Diet"

"Discover why antioxidant supplements may not be as effective as getting them from a healthy diet and the potential risks associated with them. Learn about the best sources and how to incorporate them in your diet."

Table of Contents

As a nutritionist, I often get asked about the benefits of antioxidant supplements and whether they are a good alternative to getting antioxidants from a healthy diet. The truth is, while antioxidant supplements may seem like a quick and easy way to boost your antioxidant intake, the evidence suggests that they may not be as effective as getting antioxidants from a healthy diet, and in some cases, they can even be harmful.

Antioxidants can be found in many different foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Some examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium. Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are particularly high in antioxidants, as are leafy greens like spinach and kale.

Studies have shown that people who take antioxidant supplements have not been found to have a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes compared to those who get their antioxidants from a healthy diet. In fact, some studies have even suggested that taking antioxidant supplements may increase the risk of certain health problems.

The reason for this is that antioxidants work together in a complex network, and when they are isolated in supplement form, they may not have the same effect as when they are consumed in their natural form in whole foods. Additionally, when taken in high doses, antioxidant supplements can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients and may even interact with certain medications. The bottom line is that you will always get a better result when consuming nutrients in their natural form. 

Too often I'm noticing patients purchasing vitamins, minerals and other nutritional supplements to replenish their deficiencies while not noticing any differences in their symptoms or have never really been tested for a deficiency. It is always best to start with food sources as they contain the nutrients in their natural form and will be processed and absorbed by the body in the most effective way. When food sources are not doing the trick, or if the individual has an acute condition, supplements may be the best option in the beginning. It is also important to note that chemist brand supplements are not the same quality as practitioner-only supplements, so before you buy ‘any old’ supplement off the shelf, have a chat to a nutritionist and get them to check the supplement you are looking at before you buy from the chemist.

That's why I always recommend getting your antioxidants from a healthy diet that is rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods not only provide antioxidants but also contain a host of other essential nutrients that work together to promote optimal health. Eating a diet that is rich in a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and nuts, is the best way to ensure you're getting the antioxidants you need.

As a nutritionist, I encourage everyone to focus on eating a balanced and varied diet, rather than relying on supplements for nutrients. If you have any concerns about your health or your diet, please don't hesitate to reach out to one of our qualified nutritionists at MP Nutrition for help.

References

  1. Devore, E. E., Grodstein, F., & van der Shouw, Y. T. (2010). Dietary antioxidants and long-term risk of dementia. Archives of neurology, 67(7), 819-825.
  2. Gago-Dominguez, M., Castelao, J. E., Fraga, M. G., Braithwaite, D., Cabrgos, M. C., Castelo-Branco, C., ... & Lee, J. P. (2003). Antioxidant vitamin intake and lung cancer: a case-control study in Spain. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention: a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 12(11 Pt 1), 1165-1171.
  3. Hathcock, J. N., Azzi, A., Blumberg, J., Bray, T., Dickinson, A., Frei, B., ... & Sanz, Y. (2005). Vitamins E and C are safe across a broad range of intakes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 81(3), 736-745.
  4. Hertog, M. G., Feskens, E. J., Hollman, P. C., Katan, M. B., Kromhout, D. (1993). Dietary antioxidant flavonoids and risk of coronary heart disease: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Lancet, 342(8878), 1007-1011.
  5. Lee, I. M., Cook, N. R., Gaziano, J. M., Gordon, D., Ridker, P. M., Manson, J. E., ... & Buring, J. E. (2005). Vitamin E in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: the Women's Health Study: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 294(1), 56-65.

FAQ’s

  1. Are antioxidant supplements as effective as getting antioxidants from a healthy diet? 

Studies have shown that antioxidant supplements may not be as effective as getting antioxidants from a healthy diet and in some cases, they can even be harmful.

  1. Why are antioxidant supplements not as effective as getting antioxidants from a healthy diet? 

Antioxidants work together in a complex network, and when they are isolated in supplement form, they may not have the same effect as when they are consumed in their natural form in whole foods. Additionally, when taken in high doses, antioxidant supplements can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients and may even interact with certain medications.

  1. Can antioxidant supplements increase the risk of certain health problems? 

Some studies have suggested that taking antioxidant supplements may increase the risk of certain health problems.

  1. What is the best way to ensure I am getting enough antioxidants? 

Eating a diet that is rich in a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and nuts, is the best way to ensure you're getting the antioxidants you need.

  1. What should I do if I have concerns about my health or my diet? 

If you have any concerns about your health or your diet, please don't hesitate to reach out to a qualified professional for help.

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