Antioxidants. It’s a word you’ve heard and read about before, but you’re probably not 100% sure what exactly they are and how they benefit the average person. First off, antioxidants are compounds found in foods that help to defend your cells from harmful molecules (called free radicals). By eating foods rich in antioxidants, you can lessen your chance of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Below, I will lay out a (non-exhaustive) list of my favorite foods that are full of antioxidants. These foods are easy to grab on the go and I highly recommend adding them to your diet.
The best (and most well-known) antioxidant foods are fruits and vegetables. Meat products and fish also contain antioxidants, but to a lesser extent than fruits and veggies. Some easy options that I always try to include in my meals (and snacks) are:
Great news! Dark chocolate is not only super yummy, but also contains antioxidants called flavonoids. Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate has less sugar and larger amounts of cacao. Some of the best benefits of dark chocolate include: reduction of heart disease, lower blood pressure, anti-inflammatory effects, and improvement of brain functions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need much more persuasion when it comes to eating chocolate! As always, moderation is key. Studies show that 20-30g of dark chocolate a day is the optimal amount. Generally, the higher the cacao amount, the more antioxidants the chocolate contains.
Nuts are one of my favorite snacks: they are easy to grab on the go, there are lots of different kinds, and best of all- they contain contain the antioxidant called polyphenols. This antioxidant protects your cells and cholesterol from damage. Nuts also contain lots of other nutrients, such as vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium.
Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries
Berries are antioxidant-rich fruits that fight diseases. Berries are a great choice for incorporating into your meal everyday, especially because they can be found year-round in the US (even if they might be more expensive during certain seasons). Pay those extra dollars- your health will be thanking you in the long run! A major study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that berries provided the most antioxidant ‘bang for the buck’. I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways to save money while still staying healthy.
Most leafy greens contain antioxidants, but kale takes the crown. Kale is loaded with antioxidants called quercetin and kaempferol, which help counteract damage from the body that can lead to aging and many diseases, including cancer.
Beans are an unexpected and overlooked antioxidant source. Anthocyanins are the most active antioxidant in legumes. Always in a rush? Lucky for you, canned and frozen beans are thought to have the same amount of antioxidants as dry beans.
One of the easiest ways to get your antioxidants in for the day is to drink them! Caffeine lovers rejoice: who doesn’t like a warm cup of tea to start the morning or to get you through the afternoon slump? Polyphenols, an antioxidant found in tea leaves, has the ability to block damage associated with tobacco and other chemicals. It is recommended to drink six to 10 cups (!!) of black or green tea per day (either caffeinated or decaffeinated).
Here are some general tips to increase your daily intake of antioxidants:
- Add color to your food! Foods high in antioxidants are colorful. Stick to richer colors like orange, yellow, blue, and red foods.
- Make sure you include at least one fruit or vegetable with every meal. For snacks, try to incorporate fruits and veggies as well- this can be as simple as celery with peanut butter or carrots and hummus
- Spice up your meals! Turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon are a quick antioxidant addition that you can add to any meal or snack.
- Snack on nuts. They are one of the easiest and healthiest snacks. Just avoid added sugar and salt!
- Have at least one cup of tea (black/green/matcha) everyday.
Although it’s definitely not a guarantee, I would highly recommend adding antioxidants to your everyday meals to decrease your chance of cancer, vision loss, and heart diseases. Therefore, always look for natural sources of antioxidants, as opposed to supplements or additives. Remember to switch it up. It is best to get your antioxidants from a variety of sources- and since there are so many choices, you should never get bored!