Over-Hyped Antioxidants could be a waste of your money

Posted at 6:59 PM, Apr 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-01 18:59:51-04

The latest buzzword in supermarkets is “antioxidants.” You see it everywhere. Snapple iced tea mix boasts “antioxidants.” Tropicana orange juice says it has an “antioxidant advantage.” And even a bag of chips claims it “contains antioxidant power.”

Antioxidants are beneficial. They block the action of free radicals, which can damage healthy cells in your body and contribute to heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. But Consumer Reports’ health experts say don’t be taken in by packaged foods touting antioxidants.

A manufacturer can add antioxidants to food, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good source for what you need. Take Kellogg’s FiberPlus bars that say they are “rich in antioxidants, Vitamin E, and Zinc.” You can get more vitamin E from just 1 ounce of almonds, and you can get more zinc from just 3 ounces of lean beef.

And should you really focus on wild blueberries? Are they the “No. 1 antioxidant fruit”? Consumer Reports says there is no one antioxidant “superfood.” The best thing to do is eat a wide variety of foods that are naturally rich in antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those will give you the biggest benefit.

As for antioxidant supplements, Consumer Reports says clinical trials of supplemental antioxidants haven’t shown much real benefit and even suggest some supplements could be harmful. So stick with food to get your antioxidants.