Antioxidants are nutrients that neutralize free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress and potentially lead to disease. They’re found in a variety of whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes.
Pinto beans, for example, contain the antioxidant flavonoid kaempferol, per a November 2017 study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. A 1/2 cup cooked beans also offers vitamin E, manganese and selenium.
1. Red Peppers
Including red peppers in your diet can be an easy way to get more antioxidants. They contain many antioxidants that help fight oxidative stress and protect against heart disease, cancer and aging, such as capsaicin, quercetin, lutein and zeaxanthin.
A nutrient dense vegetable, spinach is loaded with vitamin C and other immune-boosting nutrients like beta carotene and phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. Dark leafy greens like kale and turnip greens are also rich sources of antioxidants.
The herbs and spices category includes products such as basil, chives, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme that are known to be a good source of antioxidants. We analyzed 131 products in this category, with mean values ranging from 0.06 to 1.77 mmol/100 g. The spice and herb products that had the highest antioxidant content were clove, saffron and cinnamon. We also analyzed a number of traditional herbal medicines, such as birch leaves and wood cranesbill.
Artichokes (Cynara Scolymus) are high in antioxidants, specifically chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to reduce oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and slow down the progression of atherosclerosis. They also contain a number of beneficial polyphenols including luteolin, caffeic acid and apigenin-7-O-rutinoside.
Interestingly, research has found that the level of these antioxidants vary depending on how they are prepared. In one study, boiling artichokes increased their antioxidant content by eight times while steaming them increased it by 15 times.
The best way to get the most antioxidants is to eat a balanced whole food diet. That includes eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. A great way to start is by signing up for a healthy meal delivery service like Plated that offers nutritious and delicious meals delivered straight to your door. They’ll even provide you with a grocery list to help ensure that you’re getting the best foods for maximum health benefits!
Walnuts (Juglans regia) pack a punch of antioxidant potential. They’re among the top plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid, a heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat, as well as fiber, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium, according to a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The walnut pellicle is also packed with antioxidant compounds, which help protect the oil in walnuts from oxidation. In addition, human studies have shown that walnut polyphenols bind to low density lipoproteins and inhibit LDL oxidation.
Other research has linked walnut consumption to decreased levels of inflammation and blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. They’re also rich in phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which are thought to prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Although the term antioxidant is used to refer to hundreds (possibly thousands) of different compounds, most people are familiar with some of the more well-known ones like vitamin C, E, beta carotene, lutein and selenium. Less famous but still extremely important are the many phytochemical antioxidants like flavonoids, polyphenols, resveratrol and more.
Many of these antioxidants are responsible for giving foods their color, such as the anthocyanins in berries and red cabbage. These powerful plant pigments can help promote heart health, prevent cancer and reduce inflammation. When comparing the mean value for each food group the results show that plant based categories have from 5 to 33 times higher mean antioxidant content than meat products. The Antioxidant Food Table includes 3139 samples categorized into 24 groups and arranged alphabetically within each group. The data was collected between 2000 and 2008. Samples were procured either commercially or handpicked from markets, stores or forests. Commercially procured samples were stored according to the instructions on the package and analyzed within four weeks of receipt. Handpicked samples were kept in a cool and dark place until they were analyzed.