Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other dietary plants are rich in various chemical compounds and antioxidants. Researchers continue to find evidence that focusing on these types of foods is the best way to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Plant antioxidants may be the most beneficial nutrients for your health, but people don’t seem to get enough of them.
What Are Antioxidants?
Have you ever thought, “What makes a tomato red?” Well, the natural pigments that give fruits and vegetables their unique colors act as antioxidants. These are compounds that help to encourage cell health and inhibit oxidation, a process that results from excess free radical accumulation. Free radicals can damage the cells in the body and antioxidants counteract this damage by stabilizing cells. By eating foods that are rich in antioxidants, you help protect the body from conditions like heart disease, eye diseases, and even cancer.
As a general point, antioxidants work to slow damage to cells in the body. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants, but there are antioxidant supplements. Health experts agree that the antioxidants in fresh produce are better because they have not been synthesized in a lab. Although there are many antioxidant-rich foods in the world, the following eight foods are some of the best reliable sources.
The phenolic compounds, gallic acid and ellagic acid, in blackberries exhibit potent antioxidant activity. Blackberries are also rich sources of proanthocyanidins, catechins, luteolin, and anthocyanins, according to a 2012 study. That study analyzed three types of berries: blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. While blackberries had less antioxidant capacity than blueberries, they did have more than strawberries.
Spinach is a low calorie leafy green vegetables that packs a powerful nutritional punch. The lutein in spinach, which is a potent carotenoid that makes carrots orange, may help promote eye health. Several reports found that lutein may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Lutein functions as an antioxidant as well, meaning spinach may help improve heart health, according to a 2018 study.
Granny Smith Apples
These tart green apples are freshest during autumn, but you can enjoy them year round. They contain phenolic compounds, including quercetin, catechin, and epicatechin. Per an August 2015 study, one Granny Smith apple contains 3% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of manganese and 4.7 grams of fiber. Granny Smiths are common in fall dessert recipes, but enjoy them fresh to enjoy their full nutritional profile.
Potatoes may not be at the top of your antioxidant list because people associate them with carbs. Although there are unhealthy variations of the potato, including chips and french fries, they actually exhibit a wide variety of antioxidants. To get the most antioxidants, it’s best to choose colorful potatoes, including yams or purple and red potatoes. A 2016 study found that antioxidants in potatoes may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases.
Similar to other leafy green vegetables, broccoli has a diverse nutritional profile. Broccoli is rich in protein, fiber, calcium, and phenolic compounds, which are chemicals that plants produce. Phenolic compounds help to fight against oxidative stress because they are high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. A 2014 study found that broccoli’s phenolic compounds may fight back against inflammation, allergies, and other diseases.
According to the USDA, cranberries are one of the top fruit sources of antioxidants. The antioxidant capacity per cup is 8,983, coming in just shy of the antioxidant capacity of blueberries. Cranberries contain numerous polyphenols, including the flavonoids catechin and anthocyanin. Catechin is currently under review for its potential ability to prevent or reduce the risk of cancer.
Red Kidney Beans
In general, beans are rich sources of antioxidants. Red kidney beans happen to contain anthocyanins and other polyphenol antioxidants, according to an October 2016 study. Flavonoids can affect cell signaling and exhibit anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties in in-vitro studies. In addition to the antioxidant content, red kidney beans are also rich in fiber, protein, and manganese.
You cannot have an article about antioxidants and exclude blueberries. They are some of the best sources of antioxidants, but they also have nutrients that maintain a healthy brain, heart, and bones. A 2019 study found that eating one cup of blueberries per day for six months reduced the risk of heart disease by 12-15%. A previous 2015 study found a diet rich in blueberries reduces the risk of cancer cell growth, diabetes, and heart disease.