Antioxidants and the acknowledgement of superfoods have taken the health world by storm in the last decade after it is been recognised that certain types of foods are more nutritionally dense than others and can offer a wide variety of health benefits. Further, antioxidant-rich foods have been linked to reducing cell damage in our bodies. So how can these antioxidant-rich foods help our health and which ones are the best?
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules found in our bodies as well as other substances, such as our food, that help prevent the breakdown or damage of cells. In our bodies, antioxidants fight off free radicals, which are unstable atoms, that can cause oxidative damage to our cells by contributing to or causing diseases or expediting the aging process.
Why Are Antioxidants Important?
While our body naturally has antioxidants modern life has led to an increase of exposure to environmental free radicals like pollution, UV rays etc, and within our lifestyle choices like smoking, stress, or a poor diet that can easily tip the scale with what our body’s natural antioxidants can handle. Eating foods that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants can help the body maintain good health and stave off disease.
10 Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Blueberries have become the poster-child for the superfood movement and that’s because this small berry packs a punch. Blueberries have an array of vitamins and minerals are also contain anthocyanins, which is a powerful antioxidant, especially in wild blueberries. Further studies have connected blueberries and its anthocyanins to helping decrease cholesterol and blood pressure while reducing the risk of heart disease. Other studies have even found benefits in assisting with neurological conditions.
Yes, believe it or not, this delectable treat has antioxidant benefits. Dark chocolate has a high content of cacao (70% or more) and generally contains less sugar than other types of chocolate. The flavonoids from dark chocolate act as antioxidants. Consumed in small amounts, may help to reduce the chances of diseases like cancer and heart disease and may also help lower blood pressure and inflammation and promote good cholesterol.
Like the blueberry, strawberries contain a high amount of the antioxidant, anthocyanin, which is where berries get their vibrant colours from. Strawberries can help reduce inflammation and contribute to lowering risks of heart disease. Further, strawberries also have polyphenols which may help improve insulin sensitivity in those at risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Spinach is one of the many dark leafy green vegetables that are high in nutrients and antioxidants. Specifically, spinach contains the antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein which may help promote eye health as well as helping to prevent damage from different types of UV rays.
With their wondrous colour, it’s no wonder beets are considered a superfood. Beets are very high in fibre, iron, potassium, and folate as well as containing antioxidants from the pigment betalain which help to reduce inflammation as well as helping to prevent colon cancers and digestive issues.
Often used in Chinese medicine for brain health, walnuts are one of the most nutritious nuts around. They’re high in fibre, protein, polyphenols and unsaturated fats and may contribute to improving your memory. The walnut also contains antioxidants associated with pain relief and cancer prevention as well as assisting in weight loss.
Green tea has long been touted for its health benefits and is a popular drink in Hong Kong and Asia. Green tea is known to have antibacterial properties as wells assisting in reducing inflammation and cancer risks. Green tea is beneficial due to a phytochemical antioxidant called catechin which has been linked to the reduction and prevention of infectious diseases.
Beans are a very healthy source of fibre and protein as well as also having a high dose of antioxidants. For example, pinto beans contain an antioxidant called kaempferol which has been linked to reducing certain cancers like, breast, kidney, lung and bladder.
While also being super nutritious, broccoli also contains an antioxidant called phenolic, which helps the plant fight off oxidative stress. The antioxidant appears to have the same benefit in humans and has been linked to helping stave off cancer, inflammation and allergies.
Artichokes have been linked with helping to improve heart health as well as digestive health. Other studies have also linked artichokes to reducing bad types of cholesterol and the risk of heart-related diseases. Further, if you steam an artichoke it can increase its antioxidant effects by up to 15 times while boiling it will increase it by eight.