Unless you have had your head stuck in the sand, you have probably heard a lot about antioxidants lately. There is good reason for that, research keeps stacking up the evidence on the powerful positive effects that antioxidants have on the body, from preventing cancer, improving vision, helping brain function, and reducing inflammation. With the barrage of information announcing new sources of antioxidants, wouldn’t it be great to have a comprehensive list to choose from? Hopefully this list of top antioxidant foods will help you plan powerfully healing menus for your life.
The Top Contenders
How do scientists analyze which foods have the greatest antioxidant power? The answer lies in measuring the compounds that have an antioxidative effect in foods. These include substances such as flavanols and polyphenols, which are abundant in a large number of plants, especially fruits and vegetables. As a general rule, the darker the color, the higher its antioxidant properties tend to be. For a while, the USDA touted Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) measurement as the best way to determine antioxidant levels, but they have since retracted those recommendations. However, that does not change the chemical constituents that plants are made up of, and the following list of foods are those that have demonstrated the highest levels of antioxidant properties, including vitamins C and E, selenium, beta carotene, and more recently researched compounds.
- Fruits – these are perhaps the most heralded sources of antioxidants, and with good reason. Fruits, particularly berries, are high in anthocyanins, some of the most heavily researched antioxidant substances. The top fruits for antioxidants include:
- Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, acai, and goji berries.
- Pomegranates, apples and oranges.
- Vegetables – once again, think dark for antioxidant values. Some of the best veggies include:
- Green Vegetables: artichokes, spinach, kale, and broccoli
- Orange Vegetables: carrots and sweet potatoes
- Others: russet potatoes
- Legumes – although they do not get all the publicity that fruits and veggies do, legumes are actually great sources of antioxidants. Which beans to choose? Check out these:
- Red beans – small red beans actually pack a powerful dose of antioxidants, rivalling the antioxidant levels of the famed blueberries.
- Red kidney beans – although they don’t contain as many as their smaller cousins, kidney beans come a pretty close second.
- Nuts – these nutrition treasure houses bring a host of good things to the table, including protein, minerals (such as magnesium), fiber and healthy fats, but a number of them are also great sources of antioxidants. They include:
- Walnuts – topping the list in the nut family is the walnut, which is also a source of 185 milligrams of magnesium. Some researchers say that only seven walnuts per day provides adequate amounts of antioxidants.
- Pecans – although not boasting as high of antioxidant content as walnuts, pecan certainly deserve an honorable mention.
And the Winner is…Chocolate?
Chances are you have heard something about the antioxidants in chocolate, but did you know that it actually has greater antioxidant content than all the so-called “super-fruits”? That’s right, natural or non-alkalized cocoa powder or dark chocolate (60 to 63% cacao) contained 500 milligrams of flavonol compared with less than 200 milligrams in the leading “super-fruits.” Overall antioxidant content was significantly higher than all fruits, with the exception of pomegranates. Hands down, natural cocoa is the best source of antioxidants known so far.
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