Antioxidants are substances which can help postpone or even prevent damage to cells in the body. When a person consumes them in large quantities, antioxidants can help defend the body from the potentially harmful free radicals, which are unstable atoms, against oxidative stress.
We can cause oxidative stress when free radicals build up in a person’s blood. Oxidative stress can increase the risk of cancer, heart disease and many other chronic diseases and health issues.
There are many healthy foods which contain antioxidants. If a person consumes some or all of these foods on a regular basis, they can increase their antioxidant levels, potentially helping them to avoid the damage associated with oxidative stress by doctors.
In this article, we list some of the healthiest foods a person can eat to improve the antioxidants in their diet.
Blueberries are high in nutrients but low in calories, too. A study carried out in 2017 found that wild blueberries contain a great number of antioxidants.
Research on blueberries have shown that their antioxidant content has beneficial effects on these fruits. The authors of an animal study analysis, for example, concluded that antioxidants in blueberries may have medicinal uses for neurological conditions, including those linked to ageing.
2016 study investigated the naturally occurring anthocyanins in the blueberries and other plant materials. Anthocyanins belong to a group of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals. They are in charge of many of the bright colors of fruits and vegetables.
The review found that anthocyanins may help prevent high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or poor, cholesterol, as well as lower the risk of heart disease and lower the blood pressure of an individual.
2. Dark chocolate
Good quality dark chocolate contains a high nutrient and antioxidant content. Studies have correlated dark chocolate with a range of potential health benefits including:
- lower risk of heart disease
- reduced inflammation
- less chance of high blood pressure
- promotion of good cholesterol
One review of 10 studies involving nearly 300 participants showed that dark chocolate helps to reduce measurements of the upper and lower blood pressure.
However, the authors noted that future research needs to determine how much dark chocolate a person should eat for these benefits and explore its effect on other metabolic conditions.
Artichokes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Research suggests they may help lower cholesterol levels in people and improve their health in the gut.
One study examining the medicinal use of artichokes over time noted that consumption of artichokes can be good for the health of the gut, liver and heart.
Another study showed that in laboratory tests, chemical agents in artichokes had an antioxidant effect on LDL cholesterol. Hence, regular consumption of artichokes can contribute to a reduction in a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and other related conditions.
Why people make artichokes determines their levels of antioxidants. One study compared boiling, frying and steaming to see how each influenced the levels of antioxidants.
The results showed that steaming increased the antioxidants ‘ effectiveness by 15 times, while boiling decreased it by eight times. Researchers believe this is because boiling and steaming break down the walls of the cell, making the antioxidants more available.
Pecans offer good protein, calories, minerals, and antioxidants at high levels.
One study showed that the body would consume pecans ‘ antioxidants, increasing their blood levels.
It also found that eating raw pecans helps lower the levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood, which can mean these nuts help prevent heart disease.
Strawberries are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Strawberries owe their red color to the antioxidant anthocyanins.
A 2016 study found that taking anthocyanin supplements in patients with high cholesterol lowered the LDL cholesterol levels. Anthocyanins can help prevent heart disease by lowering the LDL cholesterol levels.
People can eat raw strawberries as a snack or as part of a salad or other platter.
While strawberries are an ingredient in certain baked goods, they are rarely nutritious and are not a good choice for people trying to lose weight.
6. Red cabbage
Red cabbage contains numerous nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K plus a few antioxidants.
Red cabbage produces anthocyanins, including strawberries and a red kale. A community of antioxidants helps to promote heart health, prevent cancer, and reduce inflammation in addition to giving the vegetable its red color.
Anthocyanins have the following health benefits, according to one study:
- diabetes maintenance and management
- promote weight control
- prevent heart disease
However, further research is still needed to determine the health effects of eating red cabbage. A person may eat red cabbage as part of a salad or as a cooked vegetable.
Raspberries are an excellent source of antioxidants. They also contain manganese, vitamin C and dietary fibre. Evidence suggests that antioxidants present in raspberries may help to destroy certain cancer cells.
For example, in a laboratory study, researchers found that antioxidants and some other compounds in raspberries helped kill breast, colon, and stomach cancer cells in the test tube.
In the case of breast cancer, some 50 percent of the cancer cell destruction was attributed to the antioxidant effects of the raspberry extract.
A more recent review of studies has shown that compounds in black raspberries may slow the progression of cancerous tumors.
Most of the research on raspberries, however, involved experiments in test tubes. As a result, researchers need to carry out studies involving people to assess the efficacy of eating raspberries in disease prevention.
Beans are an excellent source of protein and dietary fibre. Some beans, such as pinto beans, are also very high in antioxidants.
Pinto beans contain a plant flavonoid called kaempferol, which may help to suppress cancer cell growth and reduce inflammation. Several studies link kaempferol with the suppression of specific cancers, including:
Despite these promising studies, researchers have little knowledge of the antioxidant effect of kaempferol in humans. To date, studies in animals and test tubes have been carried out primarily.
However, as beans have a number of potential health benefits, it is a good idea for people to include them as part of their regular diet.
9. Purple or red grapes
Purple and red grape varieties contain vitamins C, selenium and antioxidants.
Two antioxidants that occur in grapes, namely anthocyanin and proanthocyanin, may help protect a person from heart disease or cancer.
However, additional research is needed to show the exact effects that eating grapes has on the health of the heart and the risk of cancer.
Spinach is a green, leafy vegetable rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is low in calories, making it an excellent choice as an addition to salads and appetizers.
Zeaxanthin and lutein are two antioxidants in spinach that can promote eye health. They help prevent damage to ultraviolet (UV) rays and other harmful light waves.
A review of studies on lutein and zeaxanthin found that many studies have investigated their role in age-related macular degeneration. The authors also suggested how people could get more of these antioxidants in their diet, naming dark leafy greens, eggs, and pistachio as sources.
Beets are vegetables that contain antioxidants that belong to a class of pigments called betalains. Betalain can help prevent colon cancer and digestive problems.
The best antioxidant foods: List and benefits
Beets are also a source of dietary fibre, iron, folate and potassium. These substances may help to suppress inflammation.
One review noted that betalains are promising to reduce free radicals and help prevent cancer. However, research has not yet determined the efficacy of eating beets for these benefits.
Kale is rich in vitamins A, C and K and contains many antioxidants. It is a traditional health food and hardy winter crop, common in many northern regions.
Red kale will give more than green kale because it contains anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are antioxidants that are readily available in a variety of fruits and vegetables. They are responsible for the color of these foods, from vivid red to blue.
13. Orange vegetables
Many orange vegetables contain vitamin A, as well as other nutrients. These vegetables contain large amounts of phytochemicals which can help in preventing heart disease and cancer. Examples of orange vegetables that have high levels of antioxidants include:
- sweet potatoes
- acorn squash
- butternut squash
There is minimal evidence to suggest how orange vegetables are best served. They are often cooked by people, but a person can eat some kinds, including carrots, raw as a snack, or part of a salad.
There are many common foods that humans can consume to increase the number of antioxidants they eat.
The antioxidants in these foods can help promote the safety of the heart and lungs, prevent cancer, and protect against other common diseases associated with harmful free radicals by scientists.
However, researchers still need to learn to what degree each of these foods helps people achieve higher levels of antioxidants. Additionally, they need to determine how successful each is in preventing disease.