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17 Healthy High-Antioxidant Foods to Boost Your Health

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD November 8, 2022

Boosting your health starts with dietary changes. If you want to take better care of yourself, focusing on what you put into your body can have a significant impact.

Whether you want to lose weight, uplift your mood, or reduce your risk of illness, a healthy diet is critical. And one of the best changes you can make is to increase your antioxidant intake. Although antioxidant supplements exist, foods provide a natural source.

So, if you’re serious about boosting your health, don’t miss out on the power of foods with a high antioxidant content!

In this article, we cover the most antioxidant-rich foods to have in your home.

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1. Coffee

Your morning beverage doesn’t just wake you up – it delivers antioxidant power to your entire body. The health benefits of drinking coffee include:

  • As coffee contains caffeine, it stimulates the central nervous system, increasing energy levels and combating fatigue.
  • The antioxidant content of coffee may play a role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes over time by improving insulin sensitivity, insulin resistance, and glucose tolerance.
  • Drinking coffee may benefit heart health as studies tie coffee drinking to decreased risk of heart disease.
  • Coffee drinkers may benefit from an increased lifespan as they are less likely to die from common causes, including coronary heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

2. Pecans

Nuts, in general, have high antioxidant values that provide health benefits. Here’s why pecans are a great snack to have in your cupboard:

3. Blueberries

Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant-rich fruits that have more antioxidants than many common fruits. Benefits of eating blueberries include:

  • Blueberries contain a type of antioxidant called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known to reduce heart disease risk.
  • They are a rich source of vitamin C, with 14.4mg in one cup. Vitamin C is responsible for the growth and repair of all body tissues and is necessary for important functions like iron absorption, wound healing, and collagen production.
  • Blueberries can reduce oxidative damage, which may reduce cancer risk, cardiovascular disease risk, and other degenerative diseases.

4. Strawberries

Strawberries have a high antioxidant profile and contain vitamins E, C, and K.

  • Like blueberries, strawberries contain anthocyanins that lessen the risk of cardiovascular diseases, lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol.
  • Eating strawberries may play a role in cancer prevention.
  • Additionally, strawberries may benefit diabetes management by improving glycemic and lipid profiles.

5. Goji Berries

These fresh or dried fruits have many antioxidant properties that boost human health, including:

  • The antioxidant activity of goji berries benefits the immune system, targets inflammation, and alleviates oxidative stress.
  • Large amounts of vitamins A and C in goji berries have roles in disease protection and building immunity.
  • Studies have shown a link between goji berry consumption and better eye health in those with eye diseases related to aging.

6. Raspberries

Raspberries are up there among the most antioxidant-rich foods.

  • Raspberries are high in dietary fiber, with 6.5g per 100g serving. Fiber supports digestive health, keeping you regular and feeling full for longer. It also keeps blood sugar in check.
  • The antioxidant properties in raspberries aid cancer prevention by decreasing the reproduction of cancer cells.

7. Purple or Red Grapes

  • Grapes are loaded with vitamin C, an essential for your body to form cartilage, muscle, and collagen, as well as supporting the immune system.
  • They are rich in vitamin K – the nutrient responsible for the various proteins supporting the bones. Additionally, calcium, magnesium, and potassium further contribute to healthy bones.
  • Grapes contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which studies suggest may help you live longer.

8. Artichokes

  • As another fiber-rich food, eating artichokes can promote satiety and help keep your bowel movements regular.
  • Artichokes are naturally high in polyphenols, protecting cells from oxidative stress, inflammation, cancers, and heart disease.
  • It appears to have significant beneficial effects on the liver, providing protection and potentially helping liver cells to regenerate.

9. Kale

Kale is one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, with a high antioxidant capacity.

  • One cup of this cruciferous vegetable has 19.6 mg of vitamin C, which contributes to a healthy immune system.
  • As a good source of vitamin K, kale may support bone health.
  • Although more research is needed, kale and other cruciferous vegetables may have cancer-fighting properties due to active components, isothiocyanates, and indole-3-carbinol.
  • The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin found in kale are great for the eyes and may aid the prevention of severe eye conditions.

10. Red Cabbage

Like kale, red cabbage is a member of the brassica vegetable family, also known as cruciferous vegetables. It gets its vibrant purple color from anthocyanins which have antioxidant properties.

  • People who eat foods rich in anthocyanins may have a lower risk of cardiovascular events.
  • Red cabbage is another good source of vitamin E, C, and K.
  • While the many compounds of superfoods like red cabbage don’t provide cancer treatment, adding them to your diet may reduce your cancer risk. Vitamin C, for example, can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.

11. Beets

Beets belong to the same family as chard and spinach and boast a mild sweet flavor. The health benefits of beets include:

  • Unlike red cabbage, beets get their color from natural pigments called betalains. These betalains have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, protecting cells from the damages of oxidative stress.
  • Beets are nitrate-rich. Nitrates are heart-healthy compounds that may help lower blood pressure.
  • Eating beets can improve your gut health because they’re rich in fiber with 3.81g per cup.
  • Additionally, the high levels of nitrates in these root vegetables have energy-boosting abilities by improving the efficiency of the cells that deliver energy.

12. Spinach

There are multiple reasons to include spinach in your diet. Some of the top health benefits include:

  • A good source of vitamin C, spinach can promote better skin health and immune function.
  • Spinach is an excellent plant-based source of iron which also aids immune function. Iron contains hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all body tissues.
  • The calcium content plays an essential role in bone health and muscle and nerve function.
  • Good for eye health as spinach is rich in the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, which help prevent serious eye conditions.

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13. Beans

Beans are available in several varieties, so it’s easy to find a type you can enjoy. As a rich source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, beans are a staple for a healthy diet.

  • Beans are rich in a type of antioxidant called polyphenols. Polyphenols are of increasing interest for their role in preventing human degenerative diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Consumption of beans may lower cholesterol.
  • Beans are high in amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Soybeans, for example, contain all nine essential amino acids, which have several roles, like transporting nutrients, preventing illness, and building muscle.

14. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are easy to fit into your diet as they are so versatile. Here’s why they should be on your grocery list:

  • Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene – the carotenoid responsible for tomatoes’ red and pink colors. This antioxidant fights free radicals and protects your immune system. Foods containing lycopene are linked to reduced cancer and heart disease risk.
  • They also contain the carotenoids lutein and alpha and beta carotene, which collectively provide health benefits. Lycopene may have the highest antioxidant activity of all carotenoids.
  • The essential mineral potassium is beneficial for preventing stroke and heart disease.

15. Garlic

Garlic is a health essential due to its potential medicinal properties.

16. Liver

Liver is a nutrient powerhouse that can aid your health in many ways. Here’s why:

  • A single serving of liver can provide you with an adequate dose of vitamin A, B, iron, and folate.
  • Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient for maintaining a solid immune system and supporting growth, development, and reproduction.
  • Liver is one of a limited number of food sources containing vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are vital in maintaining and building bones.

17. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is perfect if you want to enjoy chocolate without the negative aspects. It is highly nutritious, with more antioxidants and cocoa than other types of chocolate.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds capable of preventing or delaying free radical damage to cells. Free radicals are unstable molecules the human body naturally produces as a byproduct of converting food into energy. They also react to various environmental stressors, such as air pollution and sunlight.

When the body becomes overwhelmed with harmful free radicals, oxidative stress occurs. The process causes harm to cells, triggering several diseases.

A balance between antioxidants and free radicals is necessary for normal function. Therefore, dietary antioxidants serve as beneficial substances in managing human diseases.

In fighting free radical damage, antioxidants help reduce the risk of heart disease, the development of cancer cells, and more.

Most antioxidants are naturally-occurring and are present in certain foods. Additionally, concentrated forms of antioxidants are added to dietary supplements.

What Are the Health Benefits of Antioxidants?

A diet high in antioxidants can support and improve your overall health in multiple ways. There is a long list of reasons why antioxidants are good for you. Ultimately, the top advantages of eating antioxidant-rich food products come down to the following:

  • Cell protection: The primary health benefit of dietary antioxidants is their ability to protect the cells from free radical damage. Antioxidants prevent the formation of radicals, scavenge them, or help decompose them.
  • Disease-fighting properties: Free radical damage contributes to the cause of many chronic health problems, including cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. Therefore, antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases, notably heart disease and some cancers.

It’s crucial for people who fast intermittently to include antioxidants within the eating window to maintain good health.

Depending on the intermittent fasting plan, you can also consume antioxidant sources during the fasting window. For example, black coffee and green tea are excellent sources of powerful antioxidants.

You can learn everything you need about intermittent fasting in the DoFasting beginner’s guide.

If you decide to try fasting, the DoFasting app is your virtual fasting assistant for keeping up with your new lifestyle. From tailored recipes that curb hunger during a fast to daily motivational tips, modern-day fasting has never been so accessible.

What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Antioxidants?

Although your body naturally produces certain antioxidants, you must obtain essential antioxidants from dietary sources. If you don’t get enough antioxidants, your body is more prone to cellular damage and the risk of developing chronic diseases.

An imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals causes oxidative stress. Over time, this stress can damage your DNA and other vital cells, increasing your risk of certain diseases.

Low levels of antioxidants, including vitamin E and C, can cause an antioxidant deficiency. Symptoms of a deficiency include:

  • Low levels of antioxidants can contribute to fatigue and muscle atrophy.
  • A vitamin C deficiency can cause anemia, bleeding gums, easy bruising, and slow wound healing.
  • Vitamin E deficiency can cause muscle weakness, loss of feeling in the arms and legs, vision problems, and a weakened immune system.
  • Beta carotene converts into vitamin A, and a vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, dry skin, and dry eyes.

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Conclusion

Eating a range of foods rich in antioxidants is critical for good health, disease prevention, and lowering the risk of major cardiovascular events.

While antioxidant supplements are available, such as beta carotene supplements and vitamin E supplements, it’s best to get your intake from natural sources.

Taking antioxidant supplements may be harmful in some cases, but the antioxidants obtained from foods are perfectly safe. You can get all the health effects you require from foods with a mindful diet.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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