Generally speaking, an antioxidant drink is a beverage that contains, either naturally or through supplementation, a high percentage of compounds that are known to have the ability to stop cell oxidation, which in turn can lead to the reduction of free radicals in the body. Antioxidants as a class are quite broad, and many foods contain at least some. There aren’t usually firm guidelines when it comes to the density of concentration needed for a beverage to qualify as a specifically antioxidant drink. Juices made from fruits and vegetables with known high concentrations — blueberry, pomegranate, and carrot, to name a few — are popular options.
Red wines, made from grapes, are sometimes also on the list, and most teas also qualify, particularly varieties like white and green that are made from younger leaves with higher nutritive values. Coffee is sometimes also included, though this is more debatable; while some research has shown an antioxidant property to coffee beans generally, the way they’re roasted, ground, and ultimately brewed can and often does significantly detract from their antioxidant power. In many places specialty marketed drinks are also available commercially, either pre-mixed in bottles or sold as a powder. Many of these are artificially boosted with chemical antioxidants, and there is some controversy when it comes to the true value of these, particularly when stacked against raw juices. Still, they are very popular in many markets, particularly among athletes and health aficionados.
Understanding Antioxidants Generally
Antioxidants are naturally-occurring chemical compounds that inhibit the oxidation of various cells and compounds. Oxidation happens when oxygen permeates a cell and changes its structure. The process isn’t itself problematic in all circumstances, but inside the human body it has been linked to premature cell aging, and the electrons that cells lose during oxidation often turn into what’s known as free radicals that float throughout the body. These, in turn, can cause a range of problems, including cell mutations that can lead to problems like cancer.
Research widely supports the idea that regular antioxidant consumption can lead to better health, but it can be hard to determine the best sources and modes of delivery. Whole foods are usually thought to be the best options, but it can be hard for many people to eat enough servings every day. Juicing fruits and vegetables is a popular way to concentrate the benefits of, say, 20 carrots into a single glass. Fruit and vegetable juices tend to be the most common sort of antioxidant-specific drink, but they are by no means the only option. Any drink with a high concentration of oxidation-fighting elements can be included.
Fruit and Vegetable Juices
The best natural food sources for antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. Since most fruits contain antioxidants, it stands to reason that their juices contain these compounds, too; often, depending on juicing technique, juices actually contain higher concentrations. Typically, 100-percent fruit juice is a stronger option than watered-down versions or blends made with a lot of sugars or sweeteners. Also, as a general rule, darker juices contain more antioxidants and other nutrients than do those that are lighter shades. In particular, pomegranate, cranberry, cherry, and purple grape juices tend to be the most potent antioxidant drinks in the fruit category.
Vegetable juices are another popular choice. Tomato juice, for instance, is high in lycopene, which is a natural antioxidant. Carrot juice is high in beta-carotene, or vitamin A, which has the added advantage of promoting good eye health. Broccoli, cabbage, and spinach juices are good sources for antioxidants, as well. Sometimes people drink these juices on their own, or vegetable and fruit ingredients can also be added together to create unique blends that may improve overall taste.
Teas and Coffees
Most teas are naturally antioxidant drinks, though some varieties are more potent than others. In general, tea can be purchased as white, green, or black, with the difference determined by the maturity of the leaves at harvest. Most researchers say that the younger leaves — white and green — have the best antioxidant values, though this is debated. People usually have to drink at least two cups a day to get any benefit, and adding things like sugar or milk can inhibit the body’s absorption of antioxidants and other chemicals.
Coffee contains some antioxidants, but getting enough to be significant usually requires multiple cups. The negative effects of too much caffeine consumption usually need to be taken into consideration in these cases. Brewed coffee only contains a few specific types of antioxidants and generally is not a good source for antioxidant intake, though the raw coffee beans often have very high levels. A lot is usually lost in preparation.
Commercial Blends and Supplements
In many places it’s also possible to find pre-packaged antioxidant drinks, often marketed as health drinks or sports beverages. There is usually a lot of variety in these products, with some being more effective and having higher concentrations than others. Consumers also need to be wary of the sugar added to these beverages; many manufacturers add a lot of sweeteners to improve the taste. In most cases, the healthiest thing to do is to drink a pure juice, though a lot depends on individual needs.