Antioxidants in Stored Foods

As preppers, we buy and store food not solely for survival, but also for good health. Any disaster, small or large, short-term or long-term, is stressful. And healthy enjoyable meals reduce stress. Healthy food helps to keep your body and mind in top shape, to deal with whatever difficulties unfold as the SHTF. To that end, this prepping and survival blog post discusses antioxidants in stored foods.

What are antioxidants? They are compounds that promote health by neutralizing free radicals:

“Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like dominoes. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. Cells may function poorly or die if this occurs. To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of antioxidants.” (Antioxidants and Free radicals SportsMedWeb)

There are many different types of antioxidants in food. These include certain vitamins and minerals, as well as various naturally-occurring chemicals found in plants (phytochemicals). Although supplements are available with antioxidants, the research seems to be coalescing around the conclusion that we should get most of our antioxidants from food.

“It is true that antioxidants — such as vitamins C and E, carotene, lycopene, lutein and many other substances — may play a role in helping to prevent diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration. However, research indicates that simply taking antioxidant supplements is not the best way to go about getting what your body needs. In fact, it’s possible that some of these supplements could be harmful.

“Fortunately, research is also increasingly showing that you can reap the potential health benefits of antioxidant intake by eating a diet rich in antioxidant-containing foods. Antioxidants are thought to be helpful because they can neutralize free radicals, which are toxic byproducts of natural cell metabolism. Free radicals can also be introduced into the body by exposure to certain substances, such as cigarette smoke, sunlight or pesticides.

“Although free radicals perform some useful immune functions, in excess or in the wrong place, they can damage healthy cells through a process called oxidation. Oxidation is thought to be a factor in the development of certain diseases. Overall, free radicals do far more harm than they do good.” (MayoClinic)

Stored food is problematic as a source of antioxidants, as the vitamin content of any food will decrease over time. Vitamins A, C, and E are natural antioxidants. However, certain foods store well and are high in antioxidants:

Coffee: freeze-dried coffee keeps well, so do whole coffee beans. Surprisingly, a recent study concluded that: “Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close.” And it does not matter if the coffee is caffeinated or decaffeinated. Coffee is number one source of antioxidants.

Not a coffee drinker? All types of tea — black, green, white, oolong — are brimming with antioxidants. “The bulk of research shows that regular tea drinkers, people who drink two cups or more a day, have less heart disease and stroke, lower total and LDL (often called “bad”) cholesterol, and that they recover from heart attacks faster.” (WebMD) Tea bags store well, especially if kept in a sealed container with silica gel to absorb moisture.

Nuts store fairly well and are high in dietary fat and good quality protein. In addition, “walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds are some of the top nuts for antioxidant content.” ( Walnuts in particular contain both essential fatty acids: omega-6 and omega-3 in good amounts. Brazil nuts are high in selenium, an antioxidant mineral. However, they are so high in selenium that you should not eat more than a few Brazil nuts a day (5 or less).

Many fruits are high in antioxidants. For food storage, dried berries keep well and are high in antioxidants. One major study showed that fruits are one of the best sources for antioxidants, including dried berries: prunes, dates, figs, raisins, and cranberries (Antioxidants in Fruits)

Dried beans are good sources of antioxidants. Whole grains have some antioxidant content, although refined grains keep better in storage. Freeze-dried carrots are high in carotenes, a type of antioxidant. Freeze-dried broccoli is also a good source of antioxidants.

Reasonable and prudent preparations for a wide range of disasters must include provisions for storing and/or growing food. Prepping is not merely about surviving. It is about living a healthy and productive life, despite various types and degrees of difficulties that might arise, from minor home emergencies to SHTF scenarios to long-term not-quite TEOTWAWKI situations. Good healthy food is a cornerstone of both surviving and thriving.

More reading:
How Antioxidants Work (WebMD)
Food Sources the Best Choice for Antioxidants (MayoClinic)
Chart: Antioxidant Levels in Common Foods [PDF]

– Thoreau

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