More and more research is showing that free radicals are tied to many chronic health conditions, including heart and brain issues. Free radicals are unstable compounds that damage healthy cells and their DNA. In fact, some estimates show that every cell in your body takes 10,000 oxidative hits to its DNA daily! Worse yet, not only do we encounter free radicals from the environment and certain foods we eat, but we also make them internally as well, as a natural byproduct of our energy-producing efforts. Talk about a double- edged sword!
The good news is that we have well documented ways to neutralize the effects of these free radicals with the use of antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that stop oxidation.
Oxidation is a process where electrons are lost when two items, like oxygen and an apple, interact. You’ve seen an apple turn brown after you’ve cut it, right? As the apple is exposed to oxygen, the apple turns brown because it is losing electrons. That’s the process of oxidation. Antioxidants work by stopping that process. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you have an apple and you don’t want it to turn brown after cutting it. If you place a few drops of lemon juice on it, it’ll stay fresh. The lemon juice’s high antioxidant value (in the form of vitamin C) helps to stop oxidation and keeps the apple fresh. That same antioxidation process happens for us internally when we consume antioxidants.
Since maintaining antioxidant status is so important, you can imagine how excited I was to find a study published by the Journal of Food Science talking about antioxidant content of tart cherries. They looked at two specific antioxidants, anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin, and measured their activity in different cherry products.
They found that tart cherry juice had the highest content of proanthocyanidins when compared to frozen cherries. The juice concentrate also had the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value. ORAC is the measurement used for antioxidant content of fruits and vegetables. The other cherry products were high in other antioxidant scores but their final statement was that the “juice concentrate was superior to other tart cherry products.” We thought that was a great study!