Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory compounds that are in the body and present in many foods (1).
They help to prevent damage to cells by stopping free radicals in their tracks. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can cause damage to parts of the cells like DNA, cell membranes, and proteins (2).
When free radicals accumulate, this leads to a state in the body called oxidative stress (3). Chronic oxidative stress can lead to many chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer (4). Antioxidants help neutralize the free radicals in the body, protecting it from a state of oxidative stress (5).
However, you don’t have to invest in special supplements to get antioxidants in your diet. Many foods that you are already getting in your diet, primarily fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are rich sources of antioxidants. Eating antioxidant rich foods helps to protect your body from oxidative stress and reduce risk of disease (6).
Summary: Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that neutralize the buildup of free radicals. Too many free radicals in the body can lead to chronic oxidative stress, increasing risk for chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer. Eating anti-oxidant rich foods can help reduce risk of these diseases.
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Foods High in Antioxidants
Many foods are high in antioxidants that are extremely healthy and necessary for optimal health in the body. Find out what foods are high in antioxidants and see where you can start adding some into your diet today.
Berries are extraordinarily high in antioxidants like resveratrol and anthocyanins (7). Because of their high nutrient profile, they may help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease (8).
There is also research to suggest that berries may help prevent cognitive declines that occur with aging (9).
Include all types of berries into your diet as often as possible. Freeze blueberries keep them lasting into the off-season. Storing berries in the freezer is a simple way to add them to a cold smoothie, or even to breakfast cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt.
Summary: Berries are a rich source of many antioxidants, including resveratrol and anthocyanins.
Cherries are high in many different antioxidants including polyphenols, melatonin, quercetin, and flavonoids like anthocyanin (10).
They get their red color from the flavonoid anthocyanin. Cherries help too reduce inflammation in the body, and some research suggests that cherry juice may help to reduce soreness after exercise (11). Because of their high antioxidant properties, preliminary research suggests that cherries may be excellent for heart health, too (12). Add some anti-inflammatory cherries to your diet whenever you can.
Summary: Cherries are high in many different antioxidants including polyphenols, melatonin, quercetin, and anthocyanins. Some research suggests that cherries can be help reduce inflammation.
3. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are extremely high in antioxidant-rich flavonoids that help with reducing risk of heart disease and decreasing inflammation (13).
The health benefits of citrus fruits are lengthy starting with their high vitamin C, potassium, calcium, essential B vitamins, and magnesium (14). Add more citrus fruits to your diet like oranges, lemons, limes, tangerine, and grapefruits whenever you can to help neutralize free radicals and reap in the health benefits.
Summary: Citrus fruits are also high in antioxidant-rich flavonoids, and other beneficial nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium, and B vitamins.
Prunes contain antioxidants, such as polyphenols (15). According to test tube studies, prunes may help to reduce inflammation and promote the clearing of free radicals in the body (16).
Preliminary research suggests that prunes may also promote bone health, and may even reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease (17), (18). Prunes are also high in essential vitamins A, K, riboflavin, and niacin (17). These vitamins help to maintain normal eye function, blood clotting, and energy metabolism (19), (20), (21), (22).
Summary: Prunes contain polyphenols and other antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation in they body. Some research also suggests that prunes may help promote bone and heart health.
Olives contain a plethora of antioxidants including tocopherols (also known as vitamin E), quercetin, leutin, oleanolic acid, and more (23).
Test tube studies suggest that olive oil may have anti-cancer properties. However, there needs to be more research in humans to confirm this (24). Replacing butter or margarine with olive oil is also associated with lower risk of heart disease (25).
Add some healthy olives to your next meal or snack of the day. Black, green, pitted or with pits, olives are a great healthy snack.
Summary: Olive oil contains many anti-oxidants, inlcluding tocopherols (or vitamin E), quercetin, leutin, and oleanolic acid. Some test tube studies suggest that the antioxidants in olive oil may have anti-cancer properties, but we need more research to confirm this.
6. Green and Black Tea
Green and black tea are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, including polyphenols, catechins and flavonoids (26). You can get these benefits from green tea like matcha or regular green tea and black teas like oolong, Ceylon, and more.
The antioxidants in tea help to neutralize free radicals and reduce chronic oxidative stress, which can increase risk for chronic disease. Green tea is also particularly helpful at decreasing blood pressure, which can reduce the risk for heart disease and strokes (27).
Summary: The antioxidants in green and black tea are primarily polyphenols, catechins and flavonoids. The antioxidants in tea may help reduce blood pressure and lower risk for heart disease and strokes.
Cinnamon is a spice with many notable health benefits, including its high content of antioxidants. One major antioxidant component in cinnamon is polyphenols (28).
It’s extremely easy to include cinnamon in your daily diet. It goes well as a topping for your morning tea or coffee, mixed into baked goods, and even in yogurt or oatmeal.
Summary: Cinnamon is a rich source of polyphenols which act as antioxidants.
Turmeric is another type of spice originating from India with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, particularly curcumin (29). In addition, tumeric also has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Preliminary research suggests that curcumin may be effective at reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (30).
Turmeric as a spice gives a nice flavor to many dishes like soups, tofu scramble, and more. You can add it to your tea, make tasty golden milk, or simply add it to smoothies to get the many health benefits.
Summary: Turmeric contains curcumin, which has powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
9. Holy Basil or Tulsi
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is an herbal adaptogen that has anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants (31), (32). This is a traditional herbal medicine that has been used in Ayurvedic practices for centuries. Preliminary short-term studies suggest that tulsi may help to stabilize blood sugars, lower cholesterol, and blood pressure (33), but more research is needed.
You can purchase holy basil or tulsi tea easily now for its many health benefits, and it also comes in powder form to add to smoothies or juices. However, be sure to consult with a health care practitioner before taking any supplement regularly.
Summary: Holy basil or tulsi contains anti-oxidants. Preliminary studies suggest that it may help with blood sugar control, lowering cholesterol, and blood pressure, but more research is needed.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest cruciferous vegetables to consume. High in the antioxidant lutein, broccoli is a superb choice to add to your routine (34). Lutein is important for eye health, and it can even help protect against excess blue light that you get from computer and phone screens (35).
Broccoli has strong antioxidant properties along with a long list of nutrients necessary for optimal health (36). Add some broccoli to your next meal as a nutritious side dish.
Summary: Broccoli is particularly rich in the antioxidant, lutein. Lutein aids in maintaining eye health.
Carrots are high in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant (37). Beta-carotene is converted in the body into vitamin A (38). Vitamin A is an essential component to maintain eye health and the immune system (39).
The properties in carrots protect you against free radicals and enhances your chances of warding off disease (40). Shred some carrots on your next salad for a extra flavor and crunch.
Summary: Carrots are high in the anti-oxidant beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin for maintaining eye health.
Ginger is full of beneficial antioxidants (41). There is also some evidence that ginger may lower risk for colon cancer (42). Some evidence suggests that ginger helps to improve digestive health, reduce inflammation, and can act as a treatment for severe nausea (43).
Ginger is easy to add to your diet, too. You can buy ginger tea or even make homemade tea straight from the ginger root. You can pickle ginger to add to fish dishes like sushi or enjoy it with many other meals.
Summary: Ginger is a rich source of antioxidants. Some studies suggest that ginger may reduce risk for colon cancer. It also can treat nausea and improve digestive health.
13. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has many antioxidants that are a part of a family of compounds called polyphenols (44). The gel from the aloe leaf may help with blood sugar control and lower cholesterol, and it also can help heal sunburns when applied topically to the skin (45).
Aloe vera leaf gel is at any grocery store, and you can even purchase in its natural form as a leaf in some grocery stores. There are many drinks with aloe vera in them. However, avoid over-consuming aloe as it also can have a laxative and toxic effects when consumed in excess (45).
Summary: Aloe vera contains many antioxidants from the polyphenol family. Some research suggests that aloe may help with blood sugar control, lowering cholesterol, and it can heal sunburns when applied to the skin.
14. Wheat Grass
Wheatgrass is a powerful health food with many antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and glutathione (46).
It’s also naturally high in chlorophyll, which is the green pigment in many plants. Chlorophyll is another antioxidant that is extremely helpful in reducing oxidative stress on the body, decreasing inflammation, and preventing many chronic diseases (47).
You can often find wheatgrass at your local juice or smoothie bar. They normally have it available as a wheatgrass shot for easy consumption. It’s so high in antioxidants, so all you need is a small amount to get your daily dose.
Summary: Wheatgrass is an excellent source of the antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione.
Antioxidants are necessary to include in your regular diet. They neutralize free radicals in the body. Free radicals build up in the body, leading to chronic oxidative stress. This type of chronic stress can increase risk for developing chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Luckily, many of the foods in our diets are rich in antioxidants, primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and other plant-based foods. If you get a variety of different antioxidant-rich foods in your diet, you won’t have to worry about free radicals causing too much inflammation through the body.
Try to eat a diet full of antioxidants like the ones above to stay well.