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Foods High With Antioxidants is the second in a series of 4 reviews on the incredible health and wellness benefits of all-natural, certified organic, GMO-free, nutrient-dense foods, which are rich in monounsatutated omega 3 fatty acids; critical antioxidants, and the subject for this review; all of the amino acids, particularly essential amino acids; and all the important vitamins and minerals. You can read about which foods are the best source of rich omega 3s in the first review, “Omega 3 Foods List“.
Without antioxidants, free radicals would cause serious harm very quickly, eventually resulting in death. The process of oxidation in the human body, called oxidative stress, damages cell membranes and other structures, including cellular proteins, lipids and DNA.
When oxygen is metabolized, it creates unstable molecules called ‘free radicals’, which steal electrons from other molecules, causing damage to DNA and other cells. That’s why it is so vitally important for you and your family to eat a nutrient-dense diet of foods high with antioxidants, particularly fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based whole foods. The health benefits associated with a diet rich in plants is at least partially due to the variety of antioxidants they provide, according to the NIH.
Having Some Free-Radicals Is Good
Your body can cope with some free radicals and needs them for your body to function effectively and they are essential for your health. Another beneficial function of free-radicals is destroying invading bacteria and infections, per an NIH study.
Your body synthesizes some antioxidants on its own, but it’s generally not enough to completely balance out the flood of free radicals. Antioxidants are found naturally in certain foods which are always nutrient-dense foods and are effective in preventing oxidative stress damage caused by free radicals by neutralizing them.
These include the high-nutrient antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals copper, zinc, and selenium. Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant which is an essential dietary component. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that plays a critical role in protecting cell membranes against oxidative stress. Flavonoids are key antioxidants have a multitude of healthy benefits.
The damage caused by an overload of free radicals over time may become irreversible and lead to development of chronic and degenerative illness such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, aging, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Oxidation from free-radicals can be accelerated by stress, behavioral factors like cigarette smoking and alcohol, and sunlight exposure, pollution and other environmental factors and natural antioxidants from foods offer protective effects, as confirmed in an NIH study.
Deficiency in antioxidants, of course causes oxidative stress as confirmed by an NIH study. The toxic substances that makeup air pollution cause free radical damage and oxidative stress particularly in the lungs, per a World Health Organization study
Type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar levels promote free-radical formation and oxidative stress per an NIH study. Infectious pathogens as bacteria, viruses, or fungi can cause oxidative stress damage resulting in COPD or pulmonary emphysema, confirmed an NIH study. Oxidative stress also damages DNA which increases your risk of cancer, and some scientists have theorized that it plays a pivotal role in the aging process according to an NIH study. Antioxidants, in the form of Vitamin C, for example, is added to processed foods to act as a preservative per the NIH.
Phytochemicals In Plants
Other dietary food compounds, such as the phytochemicals in plants, which are plants’ defense mechanism to ward off insects, fungus, and diseases, are believed to have greater antioxidant effects than vitamins or minerals.
These are called the non-nutrient antioxidants and include phytochemicals, such as lycopene in tomatoes and anthocyanins found in cranberries, or curcumonoids in turmeric, or oleocanthal found in extra virgin olive oil . The ones in turmeric and olive oil not only exhibit high antioxidant activity, but also act as a powerful anti-inflammatory, according to an NIH review. A diet high in antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals from the body cells, and prevent or reduce the damage caused by oxidation.
The protective effect of antioxidants continues to be studied around the world. For instance, men who eat plenty of the antioxidant lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, may be less likely than other men to develop prostate, lung, and stomach cancer and according to an NIH review. Lutein, found in spinach and corn, has been linked to a lower incidence of eye lens degeneration and associated blindness in the elderly. Flavonoids, such as the tea catechins found in green tea, are believed to contribute to the low rates of heart disease in Japan.
Natural Versus Man-Made
Research is somewhat conflicted over whether antioxidant supplements (lab-made) offer the same health benefits as natural antioxidants in foods. There is increasing evidence that antioxidants are more effective when obtained naturally from whole foods, rather than isolated from a food and presented in tablet form, as a supplement, which can actually increase cancer risk, not diminish it. Excessive intake of isolated antioxidants in the form of supplements can have toxic effects and actually promote oxidation damage rather than reduce or prevent it, per NIH research.
For example, vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, but an increase in others, such as lung cancer in smokers, if vitamin A is purified and made into a supplement from foodstuffs and taken, confirmed in an NIH review. One study examining the effects of vitamin E found that it did not offer the same benefits when taken as a supplement. Some studies even show that high doses of antioxidants used in the treatment of gastrointestinal cancer were ineffective and actually increased the risk of death, as confirmed by NIH research.
Attempts to mimic their effects with supplements have been largely unsuccessful, it seems nature remains smarter than mankind when it comes to antioxidants. For example, one study compared the antioxidant effect of “sugar-water” and blood orange juice, both containing equal amounts of vitamin C, and determined the blood orange juice had significantly greater antioxidant action.
Part of the reason for this seems to be bio availability. Your body “knows” how to assimulate and use natural antioxidants; but, it does not know how to use the lab-made versions because it’s not in a natural form. It is recommended that people eat a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products every day, to get their antioxidants, instead of taking an antioxidant supplement, according to lots of research such as this NIH study.
It’s a complex issue, each antioxidant substance has a specific action, but it’s when they exist in combinations that antioxidants appear most powerful. In a 2006 study, researchers at Colorado State University found that people who ate the widest variety of fruits and vegetables had the most DNA protection and were much healthier. That’s why it is recommended to eat a wide variety of all the four major food groups, particularly fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds, particularly, for the benefits of antioxidants . Remember, though, you also need lean animal protein as well as plant protein to maintain optimum health, according to an NIH review.
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Your diet should include five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. One serving is a medium-sized piece of fruit or a half-cup of cooked vegetables. It’s also important to begin cutting back on processed foods, which are devoid of nutrients and particularly, natural antioxidants, thus, promoting free-radical damage, and causing overeating and weight gain, found an NIH study.
It is also thought that antioxidants and other protective constituents from vegetables, legumes and fruit should be consumed regularly from early life, as babies, to be effective. Here is one more interesting note on the subject of babies, human breast milk has been analyzed and it’s higher in antioxidant than manufactured baby formula according to an NIH study.
The first foods high with antioxidants that probably come to mind are probably fruits and vegetables, and for good reason! They’re rich in antioxidants and other healthy food components, such as slow-release carbohydrates, protein and fiber. They should be fresh as possible, certified organic, non-GMO, nutrient-dense fruits and veggies. The best fruits to fight free radicals are the ones that are more sour in taste, or yellow, red and bluish-black colored when ripe, such as blueberries.
Several studies, like an NIH study, even suggest that blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants among all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. Research from test-tube and animal studies like this NIH review, has shown that the antioxidants in blueberries may delay the decline in brain function that tends to happen with age, by neutralizing harmful free radicals, reducing inflammation and changing the expression of certain genes. And finally, antioxidants in blueberries have been shown to reduce risk factors for heart disease, lowering LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure confirmed in an NIH study.
Another great source of a specific antioxidant called anthocyanins which gives it it’s red color, is found in strawberries which may help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol and raising good HDL cholesterol. A review of 10 studies found that anthocyanin in fruits significantly reduced LDL cholesterol among people who had either heart disease or high LDL levels per another NIH study.
As far as vegetables go, one that is not very common in American’s diet is artichoke which is not only delicious but also has high antioxidant activity, besides dietary fiber and minerals per an Nutritional Data review. People in ancient times used their leaves as a remedy to treat liver conditions like jaundice confirmed the NIH. Artichokes are especially rich in the antioxidant known as chlorogenic acid.
Studies suggest that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of chlorogenic acid may reduce the risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you not ever tried artichoke, the best way to cook it is steaming which increases the antioxidant activity 15 times, boiling it 8 times, and frying it actually reduces it’s antioxidant activity the NIH found.
Spinach is one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables. Spinach is loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is incredibly low in calories, per an Nutrition Data study. Spinach is also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that may help protect your eyes from damaging UV light and other harmful light wavelengths.
Legumes (beans) are a diverse group and one of the best sources for antioxidants and high fiber content. Beans such as pinto beans contain a particular antioxidant called kaempferol. This antioxidant has been linked to impressive health benefits, such as reduced chronic inflammation and suppressed cancer growth, reported one NIH study.
Antioxidant kaempferol in beans, found this NIH study, may suppress the growth of cancers in the breast, bladder, kidneys and lungs. Red cabbage has quite an impressive range of nutrients such as vitamins C, A, and K and are high in antioxidants as found in Nutrition Data study. Anthocyanins are in red cabbage too, and have been linked to several health benefits. They may reduce inflammation, protect against heart disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers found an NIH study. Red cabbage is also rich source of vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant in the body, strengthening the immune system and keep the skin firm.
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable and a member of the group of vegetables which includes broccoli and cauliflower, and is one of the most nutritious greens on the planet, rich in vitamins A, K and C and antioxidants, according to NIH. Red varieties of kale have twice the antioxidant properties as green. Kale is also a great plant-based source of calcium, an important mineral that helps maintain bone health and plays roles in other cellular functions found the Linus Pauling Institute. The peel or skin of both fruits and veggies contains larger amounts of antioxidants than the pulp does.
It is also advisable to eat the peel of citrus fruits, particularly if it’s organic, which is rich in antioxidants. We say organic because organic produce peals and skins are less likely to have chemical residuals of fertilizers and pesticides and are safer for consumption according to Mayo Clinic research. Berries, green tea, coffee, and dark chocolate are renowned for being good sources of antioxidants which was confirmed by an NIH study. Interestingly, coffee is the single biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet, followed by wine, then veggies.
But, this is partly because the average individual doesn’t eat that many antioxidant-rich foods in the first place. For more information and documentation on benefits read this article Vitamins and Minerals Chart. Here are the top antioxidant fruits and vegetables for purchase, in the order of the highest antioxidant content to the lowest:
Fruits and Vegetables. Apples, Red Kidney Beans, Olives (extra virgin oil), Pinto Beans, Artichokes, Plums, Apricots (dried), Curly Kale, Blueberries, Cranberries, Blackberries, Red, and Green Chili, Prunes, Sweet Cherry, Goji Berries, Strawberries, Pomegranates, Black Olives, Russet Potatoes, Black Beans, Dates, Dried Mango, Oranges, Papaya, spinach, and broccoli.
Antioxidant-Rich Whole Cereals and Grains, and Legumes
Popular whole grain breakfast cereals and snack foods like popcorn contain surprisingly large amounts of healthful antioxidants called polyphenols (phytonutrients). In fact, whole grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and vegetables.
Polyphenols may be even more important than ﬁber in explaining the documented health beneﬁts of whole grains. Corn, for instance, has almost twice the antioxidant activity of apples, while wheat and oats almost equal broccoli and spinach in antioxidant activity, according to the Oldways Whole Grains Council. Here’s one even better, the cereal with the most antioxidants per serving is Raisin Bran, according to the research, and guess what part furnishes the antioxidants? Is it the bran or the raisins?
Researchers at Nagasaki University reveal that the antioxidants contained in whole grains, which are rich in vitamin E, B group vitamins, carotenoids, zinc, copper, selenium and other trace elements, destroy free radicals 50 times more than vitamin C and E alone. For more information and documented studies on benefits read Healthy Nutrition Foods-The Ones You Never Thought Of. Here are the best whole cereals and grains, and legumes:
Whole Grain Cereal and Grains. Barley, Beans (all types), Whole Meal Bread, Buckwheat, Aztec Maize, Millet, Whole Wheat, Corn, Brown or Wild Rice, Peanuts, Sorghrum, Rye, Oats, Quinoa, Oatmeal, and Popping Corn.
Antioxidant-Rich Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds have been part of the human diet since Paleolithic times. A few nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, and seeds, namely flax and chia, get most of the glory, but the fact is each nut and seed brings something beneficial to the table. For example, pecans can help raise antioxidant levels in the blood, per a study published in Nutrition Research which found that people who consumed 20% of their daily calories from pecans experienced significantly increased blood antioxidant levels. In another study, people who consumed pecans experienced a 26–33% fall in oxidized blood LDL levels within two to eight hours per an NIH study. High levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease.
While exact nutrient compositions vary, tree nuts and edible flower seeds are rich sources of heart-healthy fats, fiber, plant protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and other bio active compounds,including an array of phytochemicals that are very effective antioxidants according to another NIH study on tree nuts.
For more information and documentation on benefits read this article Vitamins and Minerals Chart. Here are the certified organic, non-GMO, raw nuts and edible seeds you should be consuming: Nuts and Seeds. Walnuts, Chestnuts, Pistachios, Pecans, Macadamia Nuts, Brazil Nuts, Almonds, and seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Flax Seeds, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, and Sesame Seeds.
Antioxidant-Rich Nutrient-Dense Grass-Fed Or Free-Range Meats, Eggs, and Dairy Products
Generally, meats and fish also contain antioxidants, but to a lesser extent than fruits and vegetables. Grass-fed beef or free-range meat is much leaner than its conventional counterpart, grain-fed beef and housed poultry, which is the way the majority of the beef and poultry are commercially produced for human consumption. Grass-fed beef is also very high in lean protein and a wide-range of nutrients, amino acids, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals.
They also contain antioxidants such as vitamins A (Beta carotene) C, and E, and a beneficial fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that’s been tied to improved immunity and anti-inflammation benefits in humans. Pastured beef is not only organic and safer, but also contains seven times more antioxidants than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef and free-range poultry packs about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than standard feedlot beef, although the amount is still lower than the total omega-3s found in fatty fish like wild-caught Salmon or fresh Tuna.
Grass-fed or free-range meats are less likely to contain antibiotic-resistent bacteria, because of not being given hormones and antibiotics as grain-fed beef housed poultry are, so it’s considered superior from a food safety perspective, as well. In a systematic review and meta-analysis, commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the NIH, sought to summarize the evidence on the effect that interventions that reduce antibiotic use in food animals has on the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria and resistant genetic elements in animals and in humans. The mega study concluded that,
There is a large body of evidence that, when pooled, consistently shows that interventions that restrict the use of antibiotics in food animals are associated with a reduction in the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in these animals. Our analysis also suggests that there may be a reduction in the number of antibiotic resistant bacteria in human populations with these interventions, with the greatest effect for those in direct contact with animals.
Not only does grass-fed beef from pastured cows provide us with more antioxidants to fight free-radical damage, but it has much less free radicals present within the meats, to cause oxidative damage to humans when consumed. Food animals allowed to graze and forage in open fields in more sanitary conditions for their foods are typically much healthier and happier, too. For more detailed information and documentations on the health benefits read this article A List Of Healthy Foods To Eat. Here are the most common certified organic, GMO-free, lean grass-fed and free-range meats:
In addition to the extra omega-3 fats, and antioxidants vitamins D and vitamin E, natural grass-fed (cage-free or free-range) eggs contain more vitamin A as well as two important B vitamins folate, the natural form of folic acid, and vitamin B-12. Natural free-range eggs also deliver more lutein, an antioxidant important for eye health.
Exclusive grass feeding improves the quality of cow’s milk, increasing the omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants vitamin E, beta carotene, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), according to an NIH review. The whole milk, butter, and cheese, from 100% grass fed dairy cows contains an abundance of vitamins, minerals, CLAs, antioxidants, and a better ratio of less fatter omega 6 fatty acid to more and healthier polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acids. This is an important consideration for those consumers interested in decreasing overall fat consumption.
Antioxidant-Rich Wild-Caught Or Cold-Water Fish
Considered a super food, and one of the best known Foods High With Antioxidants, is fish. The nutrition facts of wild-caught or cold-water fish, include antioxidant elements like selenium and other minerals like phosphorus, zinc, and potassium, as well as the vitamins E and B group—riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, B6, folate, and B12. Therefore, this super food aids in good health, as it makes up for most of the mineral and vitamin deficiencies in our body if we make it a part of our diet.
The debate of wild-caught versus farm-raised continues. Wild cold-water fish swim around in the wild, eating what nature intended them to eat. Therefore, their nutritional profile is more complete, with micro nutrients, fats, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants like astaxanthin, an antioxidant found in salmon, which is what gives salmon its pink or red colored flesh, and wild-caught fish are actually safer to eat than it’s farmed-raised counterpart. One Mayo Clinic study reported that some varieties of farmed salmon in particular, contained high levels of cancer-causing chemicals called PCBs, which simply means you should stay away from buying farm-raised varieties. A National Institutes Of Health (NIH) reported, and we quote:
Farmed salmon have been reported to contain on average much higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other nonpolar contaminants than their wild counterparts even after correction for the higher fat content of the farmed salmon.
That alone should convince you that wild-caught is better than farmed-raised!
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat of wild salmon, is far superior to farmed. Farmed salmon has a 1-1 ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s, because of the low-quality feeds they receive, while the ratio for wild salmon is generally between 6 to 9 to 1, which is a much more ideal and healthier ratio. Omega 6’s have unhealthy pro-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial in some cases; however, with too many omega 6’s and not enough omega 3s comes the increase of omega 6s and unhealthy fat adds to the risk for many diseases.
In our opinion, farm-raised fish are the aquatic-equivalent to factory farmed and grain-fed livestock, in oppose to natural grass-fed beef. There’s really no debate, wild-caught is far healthier than farm-raised. End of story! For additional information and documentation on cold-water fish benefits read Buy Fresh Seafood Online.
The best fresh natural antioxidant-rich wild-caught or cold-water fish and seafood are:
Cold-Water Seafood. Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, Wild Alaskan Halibut, Alaskan Sablefish, Wild Petrale Sole, Atlantic Sea Scallops, Wild Pink Tuna, Wild-Caught Raw Shrimp, and Spring Water Sardines.
Antioxidant-Rich Herbs and Spices
Eating flavorful foods can help you stick to a healthy diet, and put some ZEST in your life! Herbs and spices are ideal for getting a tasty antioxidant kick. While the antioxidants levels are high, you probably don’t consume huge quantities on a daily basis, or do you?
According to NIH research, there is ample evidence herbs and spices possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, and glucose and cholesterol-lowering activities as well as properties that affect cognition and mood. Research over the past decade has reported on the diverse range of health properties that they possess via their bioactive constituents. For more information and documentation of health benefits of herbs and spices read Healthy Nutrition Foods-The Ones You Never Thought Of.
Organic Spices and Seasonings. Cloves, Mint, Allspice, Cinnamon, Cilantro, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Bay Leaves, Cocoa (Dark Chocolate), Sassafras, Cumin, Garlic, turmeric, Parsley, Basil, Ginger, Cayenne Pepper.
Antioxidants-Rich Organic Drinks and Smoothies
According to a Harvard Medical School study, sweet fruity drinks are hard on the heart. Aside from plain filtered water, the healthiest choices are unsweetened tea, especially green tea (see green tea study earlier in article), coffee or espresso in moderation, and flavored waters. You can also boost your antioxidant levels with healthy hot and cold drinks like coffee or green tea.
Many health experts warn against drinking too much fruit juice, however, as it can spike your blood pressure and lacks the healthy fiber of the whole fruit, so it’s actually better to eat the whole fruit, per Diabetes UK. For more information and documentation on benefits read Healthy Nutrition Foods-The Ones You Never Thought Of. Here are the best antioxidants many fruit drinks, the highest antioxidant content to lowest:
Blueberry Smoothies With Peruvian Maca (*), Espresso, Coffee, Red Wine (Resveratrol), Pomegranate Juice, Green Tea, Grape Juice, Black Tea, Prune Juice, Cranberry Juice, and Orange Juice. Smoothies are a great way to enjoy all of your favorite nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich, and healthy fruits and veggies, too!
Antioxidant-Rich Dark Chocolate. YES, that’s right! Dark chocolate candy, not milk chocolate, has high antioxidant activity. Isn’t that amazing? And, here’s the documentation to prove it. Consuming cocoa-rich products like dark chocolate reduced systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure, per an NIH study. Another study found that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease by raising blood antioxidant levels, raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and preventing “bad” LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized, according to NIH research. So, grab you a piece of dark chocolate and enjoy!
Planting Your Own Antioxidant-Rich Garden
Obviously, your best choice for providing the best fresh antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and edible flower seeds for you and your family, is to plant your own private, backyard garden. Plant your own garden, you say? Yes, plant your garden, planning it and coming up with your own creative design, choosing the right nutrient-dense, certified organic non-GMO, antioxidant-rich, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seed plants to plant in your spring garden and a fall garden.
You’ll be amazed in the experience of planting them, nuturing them, and enjoying the fresh and healthy harvest when it’s time, year after year. Not only will you and your family be enjoying the freshest and healthiest foods available on the planet, off of your plants, vines, and trees, but the added health and wellness benefits of the mental and physical activity of planting and caring of the garden itself!
So, what do you think? Are you willing to commit to a plan of eating Foods High With Antioxidants, which will assure you and your family’s health and well being? How about planting your own garden? Still, not convinced? Ask your question below. We’d love to hear your comments, as well.
(*) Learn more about Peruvian Maca in these reviews:
Look for an upcoming review “List Of Amino Acids and Their Funstions” for a full explanation on which all-natural, certified-organic, GMO-free, nutrient-dense foods, that contain all the amino acids, particularly essential amino acids.
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