You have probably heard more than once that you should aim to eat antioxidant foods. Or when talking about foods, you probably heard some of them being praised for being rich in antioxidants. But why should we aim to eat such types of food and which foods are richer in antioxidants?
In short, antioxidants are compounds that help delay or even prevent cell damage in the body caused by oxidative stress.
What is oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals, also called reactive oxygen species, and antioxidant defenses. Free radicals are unstable atoms that are necessary to our bodies to function but in high amounts can cause damage to the cells, leading to aging and disease.
Oxidative stress has been connected to a wide range of diseases such as ADHD, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, heart failure, sickle-cell disease, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression, among others.
Oxidative stress can also be accelerated by stress, smoking, alcohol, sunlight, and pollution among other factors.
Consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants can help restore the balance between free radicals and antioxidants, therefore prevent or at least slow down oxidative stress.
What are the best antioxidant foods?
- Berries: rich in anthocyanins and vitamin C, berries are considered some of the best sources of antioxidants. Especially blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, and raspberries.
- Dark chocolate: because it has more cocoa than regular chocolate, dark chocolate has lots of minerals and antioxidants. Aim for 70% or higher.
- Artichokes: a source of dietary fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. Artichokes have a higher amount of antioxidants when steamed or boiled.
- Nuts: rich in copper, manganese, vitamin E, and zinc. Pecans in particular have a high antioxidant effect and contribute to lowering LDL cholesterol in the blood.
- Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: if you need any more reasons to eat your greens, most of them are rich in antioxidants. In particular add kale, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower to your diet.
- Red cabbage: similar to green vegetables, red cabbage is also rich in antioxidants as well as vitamins C, K, and A.
- Beans: an easy and cheap option to add more antioxidants to your diet. All beans are recommended, in particular red beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, and soybeans.
- Sweet potatoes: rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which turns to vitamin A when consumed. Similar to sweet potatoes are also carrots, acorn squash, and butternut squash.
- Tea: rich in catechins and flavonoids, tea also prevents cell damage. Choose in particular white tea, jasmine tea, and green tea.
Fish: contains several types of antioxidants, specifically zoochemicals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Among the fish richer in antioxidants are sardines, salmon, oysters, mackerel, and tuna steak.