Antioxidant foods protect against heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, prevent inflammation, enhance immune function, and fight the effects of aging. Essentially, they are nutritional superheroes. Hundreds of known antioxidant compounds can be found in food, as well as in nutrients such as vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, lutein, lycopene, coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid and flavonoids. The antioxidant content of fruit & veg is the main reason it’s so important to eat your 5 + a day! Some of our favorite antioxidant-rich foods are:
Small red beans such as kidney beans and pinto beans are rich in antioxidants, as well as in protein and fibre. Replacing meat with beans a couple of times a week is a great way to get your protein as well as a healthy blast of antioxidants. Include them in soups and salads as well as main dishes.
Berries (including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and red currants) are especially rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Eat a handful of berries every day. You can mix them in with porridge and muesli as well as salads. Swap berries for high calorie desserts, use them to make breakfast smoothies, and mix them into yogurt for a quick and easy snack.
Plums and prunes, red grapes and raisins, oranges, cherries, apricots and apples are all good choices for their high antioxidant levels. Eat 3-4 servings of raw fruit a day (including berries).
4. CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES
Kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnips and other cruciferous vegetables not only contain loads of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. They contain valuable fibre and unique health-promoting substances indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane that promote detoxification and help prevent cancer.
5. OTHER VEGETABLES
Colorful red, orange and purple vegetables often contain a variety of antioxidants (especially tomatoes, red peppers, beetroot, sweet potato, aubergine and carrots) as can leafy greens, especially spinach. Aim for five servings of vegetables every day, and a variety of colors! Juices and smoothies are a great way to sneak extra servings in. Don’t worry, mixed with fruit juice you won’t even know you’re drinking liquid-vegetables.
6. HERBS AND SPICES
Even seasonings can provide antioxidants! Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, oregano, rosemary and parsley are all delicious and have excellent antioxidant content. Challenge yourself to work them into every meal. Although you may eat them in smaller quantities than the other foods on this list, they are concentrated so they still deliver plenty of benefits.
7. TEA, RED WINE AND CHOCOLATE
Green tea contains potent antioxidants called polyphenols, which some scientists believe to be amongst the most cancer-protective compounds ever discovered. It works by protecting cells from damage and boosting the body’s own production of antioxidant enzymes. Rooibos tea also contains very high levels of antioxidants. There are many great herbal teas on the market today, but be wary of the fruit teas as they may contain hidden sugars.
Red wine, like red grapes, contains the antioxidant resveratrol. Consumed in moderation it can offer protection against heart disease and certain cancers.
Dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao contains useful amounts of the antioxidant procyanidin. Eating 1oz of dark chocolate or mixing raw cocoa powder into a drink or smoothie makes for an indulgent and healthy snack.
8. WHOLE GRAINS
Whole grains such as quinoa, oats and brown rice provide antioxidants, minerals, fibre and protein. Always choose whole grain breads, pasta, crackers and rice in place of the refined variety.
Nuts make excellent zero-effort snacks, and they’re packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats as well as antioxidants. Almonds and walnuts are especially nutritious. Try to eat 1 oz. of nuts a day (a small handful), preferably raw or dry-roasted.
Extra virgin olive oil (and olives), walnut oil, wheat germ oil, and coconut oil not only contain antioxidants, they also help you absorb fat soluble antioxidant vitamins in other foods, such as vitamins A, D E and K. Just remember to use them for salad dressings and not for cooking. Olive oil and coconut oil are the exceptions.
COCONUT OIL IS ESPECIALLY GOOD FOR COOKING
It does not degrade at high temperatures and has many health benefits. It can also be blended into smoothies and milkshakes. Buy the extra virgin variety from your local health shop. Some supermarkets may also stock it.