This is a list of antioxidants naturally occurring in food. For
antioxidants added to food to preserve them, see butylated
hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene.
1 Food sources
1.1 Regulatory guidance
Polyphenols in foods
1.3 Physiological context
3 Vitamin cofactors and minerals
6 Natural phenols
6.2 Phenolic acids and their esters
6.3 Other nonflavonoid phenolics
7 Other potential organic antioxidants
8 See also
10 External links
Main article: oxygen radical absorbance capacity
In the following discussion, the term "antioxidant" refers mainly to
non-nutrient compounds in foods, such as polyphenols, which have
antioxidant capacity in vitro and so provide an artificial index of
antioxidant strength – the ORAC measurement. Other than for dietary
antioxidant vitamins – vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E – no
food compounds have been proved with antioxidant efficacy in vivo.
Accordingly, regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration
of the United States and the
European Food Safety Authority
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
have published guidance disallowing food product labels to claim an
inferred antioxidant benefit when no such physiological evidence
Polyphenols in foods
Many common foods contain rich sources of polyphenols which have
antioxidant properties only in test tube studies. As interpreted by
the Linus Pauling Institute, dietary polyphenols have little or no
direct antioxidant food value following digestion. Not like
controlled test tube conditions, the fate of flavones or polyphenols
in vivo shows they are poorly absorbed and poorly conserved (less than
5%), so that most of what is absorbed exists as metabolites modified
during digestion, destined for rapid excretion.
Spices, herbs, and essential oils are rich in polyphenols in the plant
itself and shown with antioxidant potential in vitro. Typical spices
high in polyphenols (confirmed in vitro) are clove, cinnamon, oregano,
turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, curry powder, mustard seed, ginger,
pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic, coriander, onion and cardamom.
Typical herbs are sage, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, peppermint,
oregano, savory, basil and dill weed.
Dried fruits are a good source of polyphenols by weight/serving size
as the water has been removed making the ratio of polyphenols higher.
Typical dried fruits are pears, apples, plums, peaches, raisins, figs
and dates. Dried raisins are high in polyphenol count. Red wine is
high in total polyphenol count which supplies antioxidant quality
which is unlikely to be conserved following digestion (see section
Deeply pigmented fruits like cranberries, blueberries, plums,
blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, figs,
cherries, guava, oranges, mango, grape juice and pomegranate juice
also have significant polyphenol content.
Typical cooked vegetables rich in antioxidants are artichokes,
cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, beetroot and spinach.
Nuts are a moderate source of polyphenol antioxidants. Typical nuts
are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachio, almonds, cashew nuts,
macadamia nuts and peanut butter.
Sorghum bran, cocoa powder, and cinnamon are rich sources of
procyanidins, which are large molecular weight compounds found in many
fruits and some vegetables. Partly due to the large molecular weight
(size) of these compounds, their amount actually absorbed in the body
is low, an effect also resulting from the action of stomach acids,
enzymes and bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract where smaller
derivatives are metabolized and prepared for rapid excretion.
Despite the above discussion implying that ORAC-rich foods with
polyphenols may provide antioxidant benefits when in the diet, there
remains no physiological evidence that any polyphenols have such
actions or that ORAC has any relevance in the human body.
On the contrary, research indicates that although polyphenols are good
antioxidants in vitro, antioxidant effects in vivo are probably
negligible or absent. By non-antioxidant mechanisms still
undefined, polyphenols may affect mechanisms of cardiovascular disease
The increase in antioxidant capacity of blood seen after the
consumption of polyphenol-rich (ORAC-rich) foods is not caused
directly by the polyphenols, but most likely results from increased
uric acid levels derived from metabolism of flavonoids.
According to Frei, "we can now follow the activity of flavonoids in
the body, and one thing that is clear is that the body sees them as
foreign compounds and is trying to get rid of them." Another
mechanism may be the increase in activities of paraoxonases by dietary
antioxidants which can reduce oxidative stress.
Vitamin A (retinol), also synthesized by the body from beta-carotene,
protects dark green, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits from
solar radiation damage, and is thought to play a similar role in the
human body. Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (which
gain their color from the compound lycopene), kale, mangoes, oranges,
seabuckthorn berries, wolfberries (goji), collards, cantaloupe,
peaches and apricots are particularly rich sources of beta-carotene,
the major provitamin A carotenoid.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble compound that fulfills
several roles in living systems. Important sources include citrus
fruits (such as oranges, sweet lime, etc.), green peppers, broccoli,
green leafy vegetables, black currants, strawberries, blueberries,
seabuckthorn, raw cabbage and tomatoes.
Vitamin E, including tocotrienol and tocopherol, is fat soluble and
protects lipids. Sources include wheat germ, seabuckthorn, nuts,
seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit, vegetable oil,
and fish-liver oil. Alpha-tocopherol is the main form in which vitamin
E is consumed. Recent studies showed that some tocotrienol isomers
have significant anti-oxidant properties.
Vitamin cofactors and minerals
Manganese, particularly when in its +2 valence state as part of the
enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Main article: carotenoid
Alpha-carotene - found in carrots, winter squash, tomatoes, green
beans, cilantro, Swiss chard
Astaxanthin - found naturally in red algae and animals higher in the
marine food chain. It is a red pigment familiarly recognized in
crustacean shells and salmon flesh/roe.
Beta-carotene - found in high concentrations in butternut squash,
carrots, orange bell peppers, pumpkins, kale, peaches, apricots,
mango, turnip greens, broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
Lutein - found in high concentration in spinach, kale, Swiss chard,
collard greens, beet and mustard greens, endive, red pepper and okra
Lycopene - found in high concentration in cooked red tomato products
like canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice and garden cocktails,
guava and watermelons.
Zeaxanthin - best sources are kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip
greens, Swiss chard, mustard and beet greens, corn, and broccoli
Natural phenols are a class of molecules found in abundance in plants.
Flavonoids, a subset of polyphenol antioxidants, are present in many
berries, as well as in coffee and tea.
Myricetin - walnuts are a rich source
Proanthocyanidins, or condensed tannins
Quercetin and related, such as rutin
Hesperetin (metabolizes to hesperidin)
Naringenin (metabolized from naringin)
Flavanols and their polymers:
Catechin, gallocatechin and their corresponding gallate esters
Epicatechin, epigallocatechin and their corresponding gallate esters
Theaflavin its gallate esters
Isoflavone phytoestrogens - found primarily in soy, peanuts, and other
members of the Fabaceae family
Resveratrol - found in the skins of dark-colored grapes, and
concentrated in red wine.
Pterostilbene - methoxylated analogue of resveratrol, abundant in
Phenolic acids and their esters
Main article: polyphenol antioxidant
Chicoric acid - another caffeic acid derivative, is found in chicory
Chlorogenic acid - found in high concentration in coffee (more
concentrated in robusta than arabica beans), blueberries and tomatoes.
Produced from esterification of caffeic acid.
Cinnamic acid and its derivatives, such as ferulic acid - found in
seeds of plants such as in brown rice, whole wheat and oats, as well
as in coffee, apple, artichoke, peanut, orange and pineapple.
Ellagic acid - found in high concentration in raspberry and
strawberry, and in ester form in red wine tannins.
Ellagitannins - hydrolyzable tannin polymer formed when ellagic acid,
a polyphenol monomer, esterifies and binds with the hydroxyl group of
a polyol carbohydrate such as glucose.
Gallic acid - found in gallnuts, sumac, witch hazel, tea leaves, oak
bark, and many other plants.
Gallotannins - hydrolyzable tannin polymer formed when gallic acid, a
polyphenol monomer, esterifies and binds with the hydroxyl group of a
polyol carbohydrate such as glucose.
Rosmarinic acid - found in high concentration in rosemary, oregano,
lemon balm, sage, and marjoram.
Salicylic acid - found in most vegetables, fruits, and herbs; but most
abundantly in the bark of willow trees, from where it was extracted
for use in the early manufacture of aspirin.
Other nonflavonoid phenolics
Curcumin has low bioavailability, because, much of it is
excreted through glucuronidation. However, bioavailability is
substantially enhanced by solubilization in a lipid (oil or
lecithin), heat, addition of piperine, or through
Flavonolignans - e.g. silymarin - a mixture of flavonolignans
extracted from milk thistle.
Xanthones - mangosteen is purported to contain a large variety of
xanthones, but some of the xanthones like mangostin might be
present only in the inedible shell.
Other potential organic antioxidants
Capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers
Bilirubin, a breakdown product of blood, has been identified as a
Citric acid, oxalic acid, and phytic acid
R-α-Lipoic acid, fat- and water-soluble
Colour retention agent
^ Guidance for Industry, Food Labeling; Nutrient Content Claims;
Definition for "High Potency" and Definition for "Antioxidant" for Use
in Nutrient Content Claims for Dietary Supplements and Conventional
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Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, June
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"Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to
various food(s)/food constituent(s) and protection of cells from
premature aging, antioxidant activity, antioxidant content and
antioxidant properties, and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids
from oxidative damage pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No
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The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages,
spices, herbs and supplements used worl