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Best antioxidant foods

Updated on June 19, 2013

Antioxidants are phytochemicals, vitamins and other nutrients that protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are constantly formed as a result of our natural metabolism and some environmental factors such as smoking, pesticides, pollution and radiation can also increase the amount of free radicals in our body. Free radicals are unstable molecules which react easily with essential molecules of our body, including DNA, fat and proteins to reach the most stable state by stealing electrons from or giving electrons to other molecules. Thus, the cells in the surrounding are attacked by free radicals. If not cleared away promptly, the excessive accumulation of free radicals will have adverse impact on our health, leading to cancer, heart disease, and accelerated aging.

Antioxidants have the property to neutralize free radicals without becoming a free radical themselves. Antioxidants are chemicals that offer their own electrons to the free radicals, thus preventing cellular damage then become inactive. The action of free radicals could increase the risk of diseases such as cancer, hearth problems, and accelerated ageing. Antioxidants have the property to neutralize the free radicals and prevent damage.

According to the antioxidant food list of the U.S. Department of Agriculture based on the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of individual foods, all the foods in the list are those that score above 2,000 in terms of ATC.

The Fruit Category

Topping the list in this category are prunes or dried plums, blueberries, and cherries. These three fruits were said to contain the highest concentration of antioxidants out of all fruits tested.

Red grapes contain resveratrol and quercetin. These potent antioxidants boost heart health by acting as free-radical scavengers, reducing platelet aggregation and helping blood vessels remain open and flexible. Resveratrol can also protect against cancer and reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases, gastric ulcers, stroke and even osteoporosis.

The Vegetable Category

In this category, top spots are taken by artichokes, red cabbage, and russet potatoes. Beans and Brussels sprouts were also touted to have a large amount of antioxidant capacity. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, can help prevent cancer and ward off heart disease. Cruciferous vegetables contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C - a potent antioxidant that breaks down estrogen in the body) that reduces the risk of breast cancer and other estrogen-sensitive cancers, like cancer of the ovaries and cervix. Other studies have shown that broccoli can help fight cervical dysplasia, a precancerous condition. Broccoli also contains other protective constituents like beta-carotene, which can help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Tomatoes are one of our favorite foods, and they can ward off certain kinds of cancer, prevent macular degeneration and cataracts, and help maintain mental function as we age. Tomatoes contain lycopene and glutathione. The former, a relatively rare member of the carotenoid family, also found in pink grapefruit and twice as powerful as beta-carotene. Studies have shown that men who eat more tomatoes or tomato sauce have significantly lower rates of prostate cancer. Lycopene has also been shown to help prevent lung, colon and breast cancers. Glutathione helps boost immune function. Carrots are an excellent source of carotene which is a powerful antioxidant. Soy can help prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, ward off osteoporosis and lessen the effects of menopause. Most of the health benefits of soy have been attributed to its content of Genistein and other isoflavones, which resemble natural estrogens in the body. Studies have shown that Genistein can help prevent breast, colon and prostate cancers. Additionally, soy can reduce both overall cholesterol levels and LDL (low-density lipoprotein or "bad") cholesterol levels, without affecting the levels of beneficial HDL.

Artichokes and beans may not be at the top of your list of favorite foods, but when it comes to antioxidants, these veggies earn a coveted place. They are among a growing variety of foods found to contain surprisingly high levels of these disease-fighting compounds.

The Nut Category

Out of all nuts, pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts are the nuttiest. Pecans especially contain the most number of antioxidant compounds and definitely made it to the top of the list of this category. In this category we also have peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and others that are wonderful antioxidant foods.

Other foods not in these categories

Although spices are generally consumed in small amounts, many are high in antioxidants. On the basis of antioxidant concentration, ground cloves, ground cinnamon and oregano were the highest among the spices studied.

Chocolate and cocoa powder derived from beans that contain hefty quantities of natural antioxidants called flavonoids have the highest TAC and procyanidin. Tea has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and other diseases. The functional component in tea is catechins. In addition, whole grains and garlic are also good antioxidant foods

Antioxidant foods are very important to our health. If possible, we should eat as many kinds of antioxidant foods as we can to boost our health and promote longevity.


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      Antioxidant Foods 6 years ago

      This is a very informative article with great advice. I have learnt many things, thanks for sharing.