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Holy cacao: cocoa is a food high in antioxidants. It has been found to have nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine and up to three times that of green tea. The darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidants (photo courtesy Moonstruck Chocolate).
What Exactly Are Antioxidants?
The media is full of news about antioxidants…free radicals…EGCG…catechins. But what do these terms mean? Much of the “antioxidant” chatter flies over most people’s heads. Don’t worry—we’ve provided a glossary of antioxidant terms and definitions. Here’s an overview of how it all works for a popular antioxidant foods, green tea and white tea:
One cup of green tea provides 10 to 40mg of polyphenols and has antioxidant effects greater than a serving of broccoli, an antioxidant-rich food. The high antioxidant activity of green tea makes it beneficial for protecting the body from damage due to free radicals.
Research shows that the EGCG in green tea may help the arterial wall by reducing lipids; green tea can protect against experimentally induced DNA damage, and much more.
A 2006 study* showed that elderly Japanese people who drank more than 2 cups of green tea a day had a 50% lower chance of cognitive impairment than those who drank less green tea, or who consumed other tested beverages. The high amount of catechins in green tea are believed to be responsible.
Sounds good, but the tea story gets more complex. For example:
There are many antioxidants with different degrees of strength. Green tea and white tea contain a particularly strong antioxidant, the catechin EGCG. Catechins are flavonoids, a subgroup of polyphenols, which are substances found in plants.
Green and white teas have different catechins from black tea and oolong tea, due to lesser processing (green and white teas are not oxidized; oxidation inactivates the catechins). To look at the relationship visually:
Camellia sinensis, (tea plant), yielding unoxidized green and white tea leaves