Antioxidants are important for your health.
They work to protect the cells from damage caused by oxidants, which are free radicals that play a major role in disease formation.
A 2014 study published in the Asian Journal of Research in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences reports that antioxidants are an important factor to maintain optimal cellular and human body health.
Antioxidants help prevent aging and different chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
This makes it important to include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet to help fight free-radical damage.
Antioxidants naturally occur in certain fruits and vegetables. The resveratrol in red wine, lycopene in tomatoes or beta-carotene in carrots are all different types of antioxidants. Even chocolate makes the list with its flavonoids, which are antioxidants.
Antioxidant-rich foods reduce the effects of free radicals. So, to keep yourself healthy, it is important to eat more antioxidant-rich foods.
Here are the top 10 antioxidant-rich foods to include in your diet.
1. Dark Chocolate
Good news for all chocolate lovers! Dark chocolate, made from the seed of the cacao tree, is one of the best sources of antioxidants. They come in the form of flavanols and polyphenols.
These antioxidants have been linked to impressive health benefits, such as less inflammation and reduced risk factors for heart disease.
Other healthy nutrients in dark chocolate are soluble fiber, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium and iron.
As dark chocolate comes with some calories and moderate amounts of sugar, eat it in moderation to reap the health benefits without overdosing on sugar or calories.
Artichokes, a dark-colored vegetable, are a rich source of antioxidants. They are especially rich in the antioxidant known as chlorogenic acid.
They also have high fiber content. Other nutrients in them are vitamins A, C, E, B and K, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous. Plus, they are low in calories.
The antioxidant content of artichokes can vary, depending on how they are prepared. Boiling and steaming help preserve the antioxidant power of artichokes. On the other hand, frying artichokes may reduce their antioxidant content.
All types of nuts are rich sources of antioxidants, but pecans top the list.
Pecans contain different forms of antioxidants like vitamin E, known as tocopherols, as well as other phenolic substances, many of them with antioxidant abilities.
These nuts are also a rich source of many important B complex vitamins, vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Pecans are also a great source of unsaturated fats and protein.
To reap the antioxidant benefit of pecans, try sprinkling them on top of pancakes or waffles, fruit-flavored yogurt, or hot or cold cereal.
The tiny blue-colored berries are packed with antioxidants. In fact, blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants among several fruits from the same category.
The antioxidants in blueberries, especially a type called anthocyanins, are highly beneficial for your health.
Blueberries are also loaded with vitamins C and K and manganese along with riboflavin, folate, fiber, niacin, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron and zinc.
Just ½ cup of blueberries can give you all the antioxidants you need for the day. You can eat them whole or use them in granolas, fruit salads, cereals or smoothies.
Kale is another antioxidant-rich food that you should definitely include in your diet.
Kale contains a variety of antioxidants, and the most popular ones are quercetin and kaempferol. Both of these compounds are believed to be able to fight different diseases.
This leafy green vegetable also is packed with vitamins, such as A, C and K, as well as several B vitamins. It also has nutrients like dietary fiber, magnesium, calcium, manganese, copper, potassium, iron, phosphorus and protein. Plus, it contains very little fat, most of which is the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
You can make kale chips, or use the leaves in tasty smoothies, soups or salads. The suggested serving size is from 1½ to 2 cups.
Spinach is another one of the richest sources of antioxidants.
In fact, it is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant known for its anticancer, anti-aging and heart-protecting properties. It also has an abundance of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Spinach is a good source of vitamins A, B2, C, E and K and contains minerals like manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and folate. Plus, it is loaded with dietary fiber and is even low in calories.
Aim to eat about 1 cup of spinach daily. You can add it to your salads, smoothies, juice, sandwiches, stir-fries and main dishes.
Among antioxidant-rich foods, strawberries also rank high on the list. Strawberries contain anthocyanins, the antioxidants that protect against cardiovascular disease.
Strawberries are loaded with several B vitamins and vitamins C and K. The berries also contain magnesium, manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, folate, copper, potassium, biotin and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, they have high water content and are low in calories.
Eat a handful of ripe strawberries daily as a healthy snack to reap the antioxidant benefits. You can also add a few strawberries to your favorite smoothie, milk shake, salad, ice cream and pie.
When it comes to antioxidant capacity, you simply cannot ignore beetroots.
Beets are rich in the antioxidant betalain, which is known to protect the body against a wide range of diseases.
The root of the beet contains vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as potassium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, zinc, carbohydrates, protein and soluble fiber. Also, the green leafy tops are rich in vitamin C, calcium, iron and magnesium.
To enjoy the antioxidant power, both the leaves and root of a beet can be eaten. The root can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked with the skin on to retain all the nutrients in it.
Out of all the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is one of the best sources of antioxidants. The antioxidants in broccoli are the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene.
This green vegetable is also packed with a variety of vitamins, such as C, K and A. It also has fiber, manganese, potassium, iron, folate and protein.
Incorporate broccoli into your meals at least four times a week. The best way to have broccoli is to steam it, as the antioxidant capacity gets destroyed when it’s cooked too much.
Beans, a diverse group of legumes that are inexpensive and healthy, are also one of the best vegetable sources of antioxidants.
Beans are rich in compounds called flavonoids that act as antioxidants. Red and black beans have the highest antioxidant levels.
All types of beans are also incredibly high in fiber, which can help keep your bowel movements regular. Also, most beans offer an amazing package of nutrients, including many vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, protein, calcium, zinc, selenium and folate.
You can use beans to prepare a protein-rich base for soups, stews and curries.