Antioxidants are molecules that are made in your own body and found in certain foods. These help to protect against free radicals which are responsible for damaging cells and increasing your risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and type two diabetes.
Thankfully, by eating more foods that are rich in antioxidants, you can power up your body to fight free radicals, potentially reducing your risk of developing these diseases.
Here are fifteen healthy foods that are rich in antioxidants.
Strawberries are sweet and delicious, making them a great addition to a fruit salad, pancakes, and oatmeal. These berries are high in antioxidants and contain a flavonoid called anthocyanins which give them their red pigment. In addition, this may help to lower your heart disease risk because it raises the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and reduces the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
There have been a number of studies done on the effect of anthocyanin on the heart and the findings are encouraging. Ten studies found that when those with heart disease or high LDL levels took an anthocyanin supplement regularly their ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol was reduced significantly.
These vegetables are packed full of goodness but are often overlooked because people aren’t sure what to do with them. Nevertheless, a quick google search will reveal plenty of recipes to satisfy your appetite.
Artichokes contain high levels of the antioxidant, chlorogenic acid, which is known for having anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that this type of antioxidant may reduce the risk of heart disease, type two diabetes, and certain cancers.
However, it’s worth noting that the level of antioxidants depends on how the vegetable is cooked and consumed. Steaming artichokes can increase the antioxidant content by fifteen times, whereas frying may reduce the antioxidant capacity.
3. Dark chocolate
If there was ever an excuse to eat chocolate then it’s now. And it will probably taste more satisfying knowing that it has health benefits – so long as it’s dark. As a general rule, the higher the cocoa content, the higher the antioxidants present. Dark chocolate provides a great source of antioxidants associated with reduced inflammation and may help to protect against heart disease.
One study noted that dark chocolate may reduce heart disease risk by raising antioxidant levels in the blood which in turn may prevent the bad cholesterol from becoming oxidized. This is beneficial because when it is oxidized it can result in blood vessels becoming inflamed which is a heart disease risk factor.
4. Red cabbage
Red cabbage which looks more like purple cabbage is packed full of vitamins A, C, and K, while also boasting a high antioxidant capacity. Just like strawberries, red cabbage also contains anthocyanins, making this vegetable a good choice for your dinner plate.
Cooked red cabbage also contains four times the amount of antioxidants than green cooked cabbage. However, preparation is a factor as it can affect the antioxidant levels. For instance, it’s better to boil or fry red cabbage to get the most goodness. Whereas, steaming this vegetable can reduce its antioxidant levels.
Prunes contain two significant antioxidants, neochlorogenic acid, and caffeoylquinic which may help to lower your blood sugar levels. These may also lower your bad cholesterol levels while also preserving cells from the harmful effects of free radicals.
What is more, clinical research shows that prunes may also help to promote bone health. This is because of the antioxidants and vitamin K present in this dried fruit.
6. Pinto Beans
Pinto beans contain an antioxidant called kaempferol. This may help to reduce chronic inflammation in the body and even suppress cancer cells. A number of animal studies show that kaempferol may suppress cancers in the bladder, lungs, kidneys, and breasts. Although, these are animal studies and the effects of this antioxidant on human cancers still require research.
Potatoes contain high levels of carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, and it’s these compounds that help to protect cells from damage. Studies have shown that purple potatoes can have up to four times the antioxidant level of white potatoes. This suggests that purple potatoes might be more effective at preventing the damage associated with free radicals.
Potatoes may also affect cancer cells. One test-tube study indicates that the antioxidants present in potatoes may suppress the growth of colon and liver cancer cells. Although, more research is needed as this research is based on test-tube studies.
Beetroot makes a great addition to any salad and this bright vegetable provides a good source of iron, fiber, potassium, and those all-important antioxidants. This vegetable has a high concentration of antioxidants called betalains and it’s these that give the vegetable its dark purple color. Although, more importantly, these may offer health benefits. Beets contain compounds that may play a role in suppressing inflammation in the body.
One study found that when osteoarthritis sufferers took betalain capsules it markedly alleviated their pain. In addition, many test-tube studies have found that betalains may lower your risk of developing digestive tract and colon cancers.
Spinach is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is particularly rich in an antioxidant called lutein which is associated with eye health and possible prevention of macular degeneration. A recent study published two years ago in an issue of Food Chemistry suggests that it is best to eat this green leafy vegetable raw to get the most benefit. Researchers added that it is also best to chop up the spinach to maximize antioxidant intake.
In addition to lutein, this leafy green also contains another significant antioxidant called zeaxanthin, which is also linked to eye health. It’s believed that both of these antioxidants may help to protect your eyes from harmful light wavelengths and UV rays.
Raspberries offer a good source of manganese, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. This popular berry’s antioxidants are linked to a lower risk of heart disease and lower cancer risk. Some studies indicate that black raspberries may slow down and even suppress the effects of different cancer types. In fact, one test-tube study found that the components of this nutritious berry terminated 90 percent of breast, colon, and stomach cancer cells in the sample.
As well as containing a high level of antioxidants, pecans also provide a good source of minerals and healthy fats. Some studies have linked pecans with lowering LDL cholesterol in the blood, which is a known heart disease risk factor. So, these nuts may help to protect against heart disease, but because they are calorific, it’s best to eat them in moderation.
This cruciferous vegetable has gained popularity over the last decade, largely because of the potential health benefits associated with it. Kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables available. It is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and also acts as a good source of calcium, manganese, copper, potassium, and antioxidants.
Two of the antioxidants that kale is high in are kaempferol and quercetin. These have been linked to lowering blood pressure and inflammation in the body. Also, these may have anti-cancer and anti-depression properties.
Cranberries offer a good source of various antioxidants and vitamins. These berries may also help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as they increase the good cholesterol levels in the blood and help to reduce body mass index.
In addition, the compounds in cranberries may also play a role in slowing cancer cell growth, and eliminating some cancer cells altogether. A medical review of 34 preclinical studies found that cranberry compounds had a beneficial effect when applied to cancer cells directly in test tubes. However, while this does sound promising more research in this area is needed.
Medical professionals frequently recommend these little red berries to women who have recurrent urinary tract infections. Moreover, a 2019 study found that UTI sufferers got the most benefit when combining cranberry extract with caprylic acid which is found in coconut oil, and oregano oil. This is because cranberry extract alone doesn’t get rid of the bacteria that causes the UTI in the first place. However, when combined with the other two substances, it works more effectively.
Blueberries are nutritious and high in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins which may help to protect the heart from disease as it lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol in the blood. What is more, some research also suggests that blueberries may help to protect the brain by delaying age-related cognitive decline. There have been various studies done in this area and one study included school-age children. After being given a single dose of blueberry powder, two hours later, performance on a list learning task was improved.
Blackberries are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. Vitamin C helps to heal wounds, prevent scurvy, shorten the duration of a cold, and protect cells from free radicals. Some research even suggests that vitamin C could play a role in reducing the formation of carcinogens in the body.
Vitamin K can help to keep your bones healthy and it also helps your blood to clot when you cut yourself. A cup full of blackberries will provide more than one-third of the daily recommended amount. Other sources of vitamin K include soybeans, green leafy vegetables, and some dairy foods.
Blackberries may also help to keep your brain healthy. Some research suggests that berries may reduce brain inflammation, which is associated with age-related cognitive and motor problems.
Eating nutritious foods that are high in antioxidants can be beneficial for your health and well-being.