6 healthy foods with highest concentration of antioxidants

Every day, your body’s cells face and fight threats. You are at risk daily of acquiring different viruses, infections and free radicals that can damage your DNA and cells. While some cells can heal, some cannot; hence, you need strong protection and immunity. This is where the antioxidants step in, as they can help you limit or stop the damage caused by free radicals. 

Antioxidants can be man-made, like dietary supplements, or come from natural substances such as fruits and vegetables. Generally, antioxidants can be linked to a lowered risk of chronic oxidative stress-related diseases, including heart diseases, cancer and death. Adding antioxidants to your diet is really recommended. 

6 foods that are high in antioxidants

1. Berries 

Considered the crown jewels of summer, berries have dominated our pastry industry with their popularity in pies, parfaits, cobblers, ice cream and the like. Surprisingly, berries – such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries – are not just for desserts but for fighting diseases as well, with their super-healthy antioxidant component. 

Experts suggest that a cup of berries can actually provide you with disease-fighting antioxidants that your body needs every day. Berries are considered a nutritional powerhouse with their essential vitamins and nutrients. In fact, one study revealed that regular consumption of berries could significantly reduce your body’s inflammation levels and vastly decrease your risk of developing heart diseases and various types of cancer [1].

Berries have strong health-promoting properties with its exceptional levels of antioxidants, including phenolic acids, flavonoids and vitamin C. Two of the berries with the highest concentration of vital compounds are blackcurrants and blueberries [2]. 

2. Dark chocolate 

Consider adding dark chocolate to your snack of choice because it is rich in antioxidants! Dark chocolate’s bitter taste may not be liked by everyone, but you may want to consider it as it is one of the healthiest items in the sweets corner. It has lower added sugar and fat compared to milk or white chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavonol-rich cocoa solids more than milk chocolate by two to three times. 

With its main ingredient of cocoa powder, dark chocolate is rich in dietary sources of flavonoids, such as catechin, epicatechin and procyanidins. These compounds can help decrease inflammation levels, support heart health and contribute to bettering your immune responses. 

Particularly, flavanols refer to a type of flavonoid that is found in plants like the cacao tree, whose beans are used to produce chocolate. It also links to the production of nitric oxide, which can relax your blood vessels and enhance blood flow, leaving you with lower blood pressure. Furthermore, flavanols are found to be beneficial in fighting cell damage which is associated with aging [3].

Cocoa consumption can have a positive impact on insulin resistance, cognitive function and mood, according to the review published by Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity [4]. However, the more processed the dark chocolate is, the fewer antioxidant components it has. Hence, better choose minimal processed dark chocolate for a higher cocoa content. 

3. Dark green leafy vegetables 

Another food that is rich in antioxidants is dark green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, lettuce and spinach. These vegetables are low in calories and dietary fats and can also provide a huge amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, E and K, B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. 

Dark green leafy vegetables are more beneficial than you may think, as they have two powerful carotenoid antioxidants, which are lutein and zeaxanthin. These two are good for your eye health as they can absorb blue light, which can damage your eyes when entered. Lutein and zeaxanthin can protect your eye’s vital components from degeneration. Dark green leafy vegetables’ carotenoids-antioxidants can also aid in protecting your cells and play roles in blocking the early formulation of cancer. With its B-vitamin content, green leafy vegetables help in promoting heart health and preventing birth defects [5]. 

Moreover, spinach – as one of the very good examples of dark green leafy vegetables – has a high antioxidant component, and when taken regularly, it can decrease your risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and several types of cancer [6]. 

Greens bring a fantastic dose of nutrition, as they are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K and B-vitamins.

4. Artichokes

This delicious and nutritious vegetable has a long history. People from ancient times utilised artichoke leaves as a remedy in treating liver conditions like jaundice. Artichokes are also a good source of dietary fibre, minerals and antioxidants. In fact, according to the FRAP analysis, artichokes have up to 4.7 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces or 100 grams [7].

Additionally, artichokes are particularly rich in chlorogenic acid, a type of antioxidant. Some studies revealed that chlorogenic acid’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits could decrease the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. 

Artichoke is a good source of potassium, vitamin C and inulin – a type of prebiotic fibre. It was shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties with its antioxidant components, such as vitamin C, hydroxycinnamic acids, polyphenols and flavonoids. In fact, eating one artichoke can provide you with 25 percent of the suggested daily intake of vitamin C, which can lower your risk of developing lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.

Artichokes’ antioxidant content varies based on how they are prepared and cooked. When you boil artichokes, their antioxidants increase by eight times, and with steaming, you can raise their antioxidants by 15 times. While some cooking methods can increase the antioxidant content of artichokes, some, like frying them, can decrease their content.

5. Beetroots 

Beetroots, also called beets, refer to the roots of a vegetable known as Beta vulgaris. They generally have a mild taste and are a great source of many vitamins and minerals, such as fibre, potassium, iron, folate and antioxidants. 

Count beetroots in foods that are high in antioxidants, as they are one of the best and most rich sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. In the FRAP analysis, beetroots are said to have up to 1.7 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces or 100 grams. Beetroots have a high amount of nitrates which are compounds that positively affect your body’s functioning and cardiovascular system. Plus, beetroots are abundant in betalains and polyphenols that give them purple or reddish colouring. 

Beetroots offer a wide range of health benefits when added to your everyday diet. They can lower your inflammation levels, enhance your cognition, improve blood pressure and vastly decrease your risk of developing several types of cancer. If you happen to be a sports athlete, beetroots are scientifically proven to improve sports performance, according to a study [8].

6. Nuts 

We know nuts have a high amount of calories and dietary fats, but they still offer a wide range of health benefits. In fact, regular consumption of nuts can lower your risk of developing chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, gallstones, obesity and type 2 diabetes [9].

Nuts have health benefits because of their contents of different carotenoids, phytosterols or plant steroids and ellagic acids with strong antioxidant properties. Among the variety of nuts, tree nuts, walnuts, pecans and chestnuts are the ones with the highest contents of antioxidants. Moreover, walnuts and pecans have shown a higher ability to scavenge free radicals. 

Walnuts are recorded to have 20 mmol antioxidants per 100 grams, which is commonly found in walnut pellicles. They are loaded with antioxidants, plus they are low in sodium and sugar. Not just that as walnuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids compared to other kinds of nuts. Adding walnuts to your snack may help in making you feel full all throughout the day. 

Almonds are also a type of nut which are considerably high in antioxidants. They are rich in vitamins and minerals that contribute to your overall wellness. Particularly, almonds help in protecting you against oxidative stress, which can further lead to inflammation, aging and cardiovascular diseases when neglected. 

Adding antioxidants-rich food to your diet

Health experts strongly recommend developing healthy eating habits and having a well-balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables. The majority of fruits and vegetables produced have natural antioxidants that give you positive health benefits. They primarily contain minerals, fibre and other vitamins to help you fight fatal diseases. 

However, some people may choose to take antioxidant supplements instead. This is not currently advisable because there are many studies proving supplements have little to no effect that is similar to eating fresh fruits and vegetables, in terms of antioxidant intake. Hence, consuming the six foods that have the highest antioxidant contents is still what works best. 

You can also check the table cited in this sentence for more food options that contain antioxidants [10].

[1] https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/16/10/24673 
[2] https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/antioxidants-in-fruits 
[3] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/dark-chocolate-health-benefits/ 
[4] https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2012/906252/ 
[5] https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/
[6] https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2016/FO/C6FO00051G 
[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20096093/ 
[8] https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/4/2801 
[9] https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/12/1311 
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841576/table/T1/ 

Photograph: Tatjana Baibakova/Shutterstock
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