Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that would otherwise damage cells. This protective effect may reduce the risk of many different diseases, including cancer, heart disease and stroke, macular degeneration, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Whole foods are the best natural sources of antioxidants, but some are better than others. Here are some of the top foods for antioxidant power.
Fruits and Vegetables
Most people know that fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants, but some are richer in these beneficial nutrients than others. Top choices include all colourful berries, apples, broccoli, avocados, sweet potatoes, pears, plums, beets, kale, cherries, spinach, pineapples, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, kiwi fruits, mangos, hot peppers, red grapes, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, squash, red peppers, pomegranates, carrots, sweet corn, red cabbage, artichokes, oranges, grapefruits, and potatoes (choose purple and red varieties and don’t peel them before eating because antioxidants are concentrated in the potato skins). Although these are among the top choices for antioxidant content, all colourful produce provides health benefits.
Nuts and Legumes
Legumes such as peanuts, peas, and brightly coloured beans (for example, kidney, pinto, and black beans) are not only high in protein and fiber, but also rich sources of antioxidants. Nuts are also good antioxidant sources, with walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, and hazelnuts being among the top choices.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are also rich in antioxidants. Top choices among the spices include cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, ginger, and mustard. Oregano is the king of the herbs in terms of antioxidant power, but peppermint, rosemary, thyme, dill, winter savory, and Vietnamese coriander are also good choices.
Whole grains are as rich in antioxidants as many fruits and vegetables, and oats rank first among the grains for antioxidant power.
Top antioxidant sources in liquid form include coffee and various caffeinated teas (black, oolong, green, red, and white). Herbal teas tend not to be as rich in antioxidants, though teas made from oregano, lemon myrtle, and guava are the exceptions to this rule. Red wine, made from antioxidant-rich red grapes, is also a potent source of antioxidants, as are fruit juices.
Dark chocolate, derived from the cacao plant, is another rich source of antioxidants. If you’re eating it for the health benefits, choose the darkest chocolate available. Milk chocolate has far less antioxidant content because the chocolate is diluted with other ingredients, and white chocolate contains no cocoa solids at all.
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