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The recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables is 5-10 portions (url), in order to meet the "required antioxidant levels" (dark-leaf green vegetables, berries, cruciferous vegetables, ...).

Can I measure my antioxidant intake based on nutrition facts label, instead of counting vegetable portions?

Adding up the total intake of vitamins A, C, E and magnesium may not be representing because they are not necessarily the "major players" (additional significant players are CoQ10, alpha-lipoic acid, l-carnitine, acetyl-l-carnitine, n-acetyl cysteine).

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  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "major players" ? Vitamin C (ascorbate) is certainly considered a quantitatively important antioxidant; it is perhaps the most important soluble radical scavenger in mammalian cells. But in many cases, including the metabolites you mention, I think the quantitative important is unclear. $\endgroup$ – Roland Jun 4 '16 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ Also, in your original post your specifically asked about vitamins A, C and E. Now it seems you have revised the question to indicate that you don't care about those vitamins. $\endgroup$ – Roland Jun 4 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Roland I do, if they are significant "players"; updated question. $\endgroup$ – Sparkler Jun 4 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ See revised answer. I don't think it makes sense to think about this in terms of "major" or "minor" players. The relevant distinction is between vitamin compounds, which are required in the diet, and non-vitamin compounds which are not (by definition). $\endgroup$ – Roland Jun 4 '16 at 20:46
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Well yes, you could get this information from food labels, since the recommended daily intake of vitamins is well established. But there is really no need to worry about dietary "antioxidants" (usually vitamins A, C and E, and carotenoids). If you eat a reasonably balanced diet, you are getting all the vitamins you need. Thankfully, vitamin deficiency is very rare in the western world today.

There is a lot of hype around "antioxidant" dietary supplements, but there is no convincing evidence that high levels of these vitamins in your diet has any beneficial effect at all. Randomized clinical trials have failed to show any effects whatsoever of antioxidant supplements on chronic diseases, and excess intake may even increase overall mortality.

Non-vitamin compounds like carnitine are not necessary in the diet at all, since they can be synthesized by the body in sufficient amounts. In general, the fact that a compound is a "major player" in cellular metabolism (in oxidative defense or other wise) does not mean that you have to consume it. For example, the TCA cycle intermediates are arguably the biggest "players" in human metabolism, but none of them are necessary in the diet.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for showing evidence that dietary antioxidants are a waste of time and money $\endgroup$ – rg255 Jun 4 '16 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Sparkler I revised your edit and added a reference for overall mortality; there is no evidence for a beneficial effect in this measure either. $\endgroup$ – Roland Jun 4 '16 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ What about antioxidants that cannot be synthesized by the body and that are not tracked by the nutrition facts label? $\endgroup$ – Sparkler Jun 5 '16 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ There are no known essential antioxidants outside the 13 vitamins. Some minerals like Selenium are required by enzymes involved in antioxidant defense, but these are already included in the recommended intake scheme. Of course there are many pharmacological compounds with antioxidant properties that do not occur normally in the body, but that's a different story. $\endgroup$ – Roland Jun 5 '16 at 15:00

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