Remember that saying about an apple a day? Truth is, there *are* foods so stuffed with nutritional goodness that they help keep the bugs and viruses away.
We’re talking about noms full of antioxidants, the substances that protect your cells against damage.
Remind me what antioxidants actually *do*?
When free radicals — a byproduct of your body’s natural processes — gather en masse, they cause oxidative stress. Studies suggest that this kind of stress can damage DNA, lead to premature aging, and increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Antioxidants to the rescue! These babies help neutralize free radicals, minimizing damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins and keeping oxidative stress in check.
Scientists use a test called FRAP — ferric reducing ability of plasma — to measure a food’s antioxidant power. The higher the FRAP, the more antioxidants are in the mix.
Here are 13 nourishing noms that are also sky-high on the FRAP scale.
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Dark chocolate has more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate or white chocolate, which makes it an all-around healthier choice. Bonus points for oodles of antioxidants and minerals.
According to the FRAP test, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of dark chocolate has 15 millimoles (mmol) of antioxidants. For reference, that’s more than 10 times the antioxidant power of 3.5 ounces of black tea or prune juice.
Want more reasons to make your morning smoothie chocolicious? Here are some health benefits linked to the antioxidants in cocoa:
- lower risk of heart disease
- less inflammation
- lower blood pressure
- better cholesterol management
Dark chocolate is probs the *most* delicious way to boost your antioxidant levels. Just remember that the darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants it has.
Almonds get all the health buzz, but when was the last time you ate a pecan? These crunchers are full of healthy fat, minerals, and — you guessed it — antioxidants.
The FRAP lowdown: One hundred grams (3.5 ounces) of pecans = 8.5 mmol/100 grams of antioxidants.
In a small 2011 study, peeps who snacked on pecans instead of bread and oil ended up with lower levels of oxidized blood LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and had higher antioxidant activity in their blood. Even better: It took less than 8 hours for the pecans to work their magic.
Pecans are delicious and nutritious, but they also have a lot of calories. Eat them in moderation instead of relying on them for your daily antioxidant boost.
Pecans are full of healthy fats, antioxidants, and calories. Enjoy them as an occasional snack for maximum health benefits.
Blueberries are one of the OG superfoods. A 2008 study suggests they have anticancer properties. They’ve got vitamins C and K. And they have 9.2 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces.
In fact, science says blueberries might have more antioxidants than other commonly consumed fruits and veggies.
- Research suggests the antioxidants in blueberries help keep aging brains sharp.
- Studies also suggest that blueberries’ special antioxidants — anthocyanins — could decrease blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and your risk of heart disease.
- Blueberries are low cal, so you can smash ’em willy-nilly.
If you grab one thing on this list on your next grocery run, make it blueberries. They’re tasty and as antioxidant-packed as can be.
Wanna zhuzh up your immune system? Grab a bowl of strawberries. They’re brimming with vitamin C, antioxidants, and natural sweetness.
FRAP score? A hefty 2.1 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces. #winning
What makes strawberries extra special is the *kind* of antioxidants they have: anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are great for managing cholesterol levels. They’re also the reason for strawberries’ bright red color. The redder the berry, the more antioxidants it has.
Like blueberries, strawberries are brimming with anthocyanins to help ward off heart disease, bad cholesterol, and free radical damage.
Whether you like ’em crispy with lemon sauce or smashed into a creamy spinach-artichoke dip, these veggies offer up plenty of antioxidants. That’s 3.5 mmol/100 grams of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces, to be specific.
Artichokes contain a variety of phenolic antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid. According to science, chlorogenic acid may lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Yay, artichokes!
Artichokes have disease-fighting antioxidants like chlorogenic acid. Maximize their health benefits by boiling or steaming them.
These little red berries have gotten major play on the ’gram. And why not? Goji berries look fresh and juicy on smoothie bowls, in yogurt parfaits, and mixed into trail mix.
They reached superfood status in the late ’00s because of their incredible vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content. With a FRAP report of 4.3 mmol of antioxidants in every 3.5 ounces, these berries are worth their buzz.
Some of goji berries’ antioxidants are known as Lycium barbarum polysaccharides — these compounds could help ward off disease *and* keep your skin looking young and fresh.
Goji berries are great at boosting your body’s antioxidant levels. In a 2011 study of older adults, those who sipped a milky goji berry concoction daily for 90 days raised their antioxidant levels by 57 percent. 🙌
Goji berries are packed with antioxidants that have heart health-promoting and anticancer properties and may help boost skin health. Unfortunately, they’re hella expensive.
We also need more research to support some of the goji berry marketers’ big claims.
Raspberries have style *and* substance. These soft, tangy berries pack a powerful antioxidant punch with 4 mmol per 3.5 ounces.
But that’s not all! Raspberries are also full of fiber (gotta keep that GI tract on track), vitamin C (buh-bye, flu), and manganese (health!).
Though research in humans is limited, some studies suggest that the antioxidants in raspberries may offer powerful anticancer effects.
Oh, and they’re full of the same inflammation-crushing anthocyanins as blueberries and strawberries.
Some of the health benefits of raspberries need more research, but we *do* know they’re packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, and vitamin C.
Kale is in the same veggie family as broccoli and cauliflower. But kale takes the cake when it comes to nutrients. Bursting with vitamins A, C, and K, it also scores 2.8 mmol per 3.5 ounces on the FRAP test.
BTW, if you’re a plant-based foodie, kale is also a great way to boost your calcium intake. Why not take care of your bones and your brain cells at the same time?
Kale is literally one of the healthiest leafy greens on the planet. It’s packed with antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins.
Ah, cabbage. This humble soup ingredient doesn’t skimp on nutrients. No matter the cabbage variety, you’ll get vitamin K, fiber, and more! But the real antioxidant powerhouse is red cabbage.
Red cabbage — sometimes called purple cabbage — racks up 4.91 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces. As you’ve probably guessed, all those free radical fighters come courtesy of anthocyanins, the antioxidants that give berries their ruby hue.
As we mentioned above, anthocyanins may help boost heart health and may have anticancer properties. Red cabbage ups the ante with a hefty dose of vitamin C too.
As with artichokes, the antioxidant content of red cabbage changes depending on how you prep it. Boiling and sautéing it = higher antioxidant content. Steamed red cabbage = 35 percent fewer antioxidants.
Reach for red cabbage when you need an antioxidant boost. Tuck into a bowl of boiled or sautéed cabbage for maximum effect.
There’s a wide world of bean types out there, and they’re all pretty great for your bod (and your wallet). Most beans are also packed with enough fiber to keep your digestive system humming along. Beans and lentils have antioxidant values ranging from 0.1 to 1.97 mmol per 100 grams.
There are plenty of perks to other bean varieties. Pinto beans, for instance, have kaempferol, an antioxidant that may reduce inflammation. But most kaempferol studies have been done on animals or in test tubes, so we do need more research to prove these benefits in humans.
Beans are cheap. Beans help you poop. Beans give you oodles of antioxidants. What’s not to love about these plant-based powerhouses?
Forget Dwight Schrute and take a moment to focus on the health benefits of these earthy root veggies. They’re chock-full of GI-friendly fiber and heart-friendly potassium.
Beets’ FRAP deets: 1.98 mmol per 100 grams of antioxidants in every 3.5 ounces.
Beets contain antioxidant pigments called betalains. These pigments give beets their ruddy charm and, according to some research, may soothe pain related to inflammation. Some studies also suggest that beet betalains have anticancer properties.
Looking for the perfect source of fiber, potassium, iron, and antioxidants? Add some beets to your cart! Their earthy flavor might take some getting used to, but the health benefits are worth it.
Popeye had it right: Spinach is the epitome of healthy eating.
This leafy green is super low in calories, brimming with vitamins, and stuffed with antioxidants. The FRAP analysis says spinach offers 26.94 mmol Fe2+per kilogram FW3. Not bad for a salad!
Spinach offers up two great antioxidants: lutein and zeaxanthin (say that two times fast 🤪). These compounds combat free radical damage just like other antioxidants, but they’re also essential for eye health. In fact, these antioxidants are concentrated in the retina and macula.
Researchers suggest that lutein and zeaxanthin could protect your eyes from UV and other harmful light. Oxidative stress can damage your vision over time, so eating spinach offers extra TLC for your eyes.
Spinach is full of nourishing antioxidants and vitamins. Since spinach is packed with both lutein and zeaxanthin, it’s one of the best foods you can eat for eye health.
Sweet potatoes score high in nutrition and versatility. Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew… they’re good sweet or savory. Sweet potatoes are also jam-packed with fiber, vitamins C and A, and manganese.
What makes a sweet potato shine is its variety of antioxidants:
- Beta carotene. This UV fighter is responsible for sweet potatoes’ orange color. You can also find it in carrots and pumpkins. Known for soothing skin damage, beta carotene also helps boost your vitamin A levels.
- Chlorogenic acid. This compound is a polyphenol that has anticancer properties.
- Anthocyanins. Sound familiar yet? Anthocyanins — also found in strawberries and raspberries — are some of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet. See ya never, oxidative stress!
Rule of thumb: Purple sweet potatoes tend to have more anthocyanins than orange sweet potatoes. But don’t let that sway you from the beta carotene! A healthy diet should have a variety of nutrients — antioxidants included, of course, but not at the expense of other vitamins and minerals.
Sweet potatoes are a cheap, easy way to increase your antioxidant levels. Try roasting orange and purple sweet potatoes together for an attractive nutritional boost.
Though your body makes some antioxidants, you can always lend a helping hand. Eating foods packed with antioxidants helps arm your body against oxidative stress, which can increase your risk of heart disease, certain cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.
Tons of foods (and drinks!) have antioxidants. Berries are antioxidant powerhouses. Dark chocolate packs an antioxidant punch. Sweet potatoes, artichokes, kale, and more can add to the fun.
Add some of these foods to your next grocery list to enjoy the health perks of an antioxidant-rich diet.