The body needs antioxidants to protect against free radicals. Free radicals can be a result of normal metabolic processes, such as breathing and exercise, or exposure to environmental toxins like pollution and cigarette smoke. Antioxidants are natural substances found in food that act as the body’s defense system. They help prevent cells from becoming damaged by these toxic substances. The foods below contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants per serving size, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking to improve their health through diet.
Foods with high antioxidant content:
-Broccoli -Carrots (raw) -Cranberry juice (unsweetened)
-Red wine (in moderation)
Foods with moderate antioxidant content:
-Bok choy (cooked, with excess water squeezed out)
-Cabbage (red, raw)
-Corn on the cob
-Escarole -Figs (fresh)
(cooked, with excess water squeezed out)
-Lettuce (red leaf, raw)
-Milk (fortified nonfat, reduced fat, whole)
-Oats (steel-cut, raw)
-Papaya (in moderation )
-Potato (russet, flesh and skin)
-Red pepper flakes (hot red chili peppers)
-Rhubarb (in moderation)
-Rutabaga (raw, peeled, cooked)
-Strawberry banana smoothie (unsweetened)
-Sugar snap peas (raw)
-Tangerine (fresh, peeled)
-Tomatoes (cooked, canned, raw, tomato juice)
-Turmeric (in curry powder, fresh)
-Yams (cooked, peeled)
-Yellow squash (raw)
-Zucchini (cooked, raw)
“A calorie is not a calorie. From a metabolic standpoint, different kinds of calories behave differently. In particular, the rapid rate with which energy from carbohydrates is digested makes them less desirable than fat or protein under certain circumstances – especially when you are trying to lose weight.”
Many carbohydrate-rich foods also contain ingredients that raise insulin levels and create an environment in your body that encourages storage of body fat. The antioxidant properties of these foods may also slow your body’s ability to burn calories during exercise.”
Food preparation can affect antioxidant levels:
-Boiling, baking and steaming reduce antioxidant levels in vegetables, compared to eating these vegetables raw.
-Freezing may also affect antioxidant levels.
-Dark leafy greens are rich in antioxidants but iron and vitamin C can be reduced by cooking.
According to the USDA, frying onions destroys sulfoxides (antioxidants).
To retain antioxidant levels:
-Eat fresh, raw vegetables. Moderate cooking of green and cruciferous vegetables should be done without oils to minimize loss of antioxidant nutrients.
-Limit intake of overcooked foods such as baked potatoes.
-Salad dressings, sauces and condiments made with oils can be sources of extra calories but should not be strongly flavored or high in fat.
-Choose foods with a higher concentration of nutrients.
For example, spinach is rich in iron and vitamin C but when eaten raw has the most benefits.
-Eat more fruits and vegetables than juice to maximize your chance of consuming antioxidants.
Antioxidants can be found in many fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes.
The following foods contain a concentration of antioxidants:
-Blackstrap molasses -Blueberries~
-Brown rice (refined can be enriched with vitamins and minerals)
-Cadmium is present in many plants, therefore it is present in all plant foods.
Cadmium is highly toxic if ingested at high levels.
-Currants (dried, includes black currant)
-Eggs (whole, cooked)
-Flaxseed oil (high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, among other nutrients such as B vitamins and plant sterols but may be prone to rancidity)
-Grapes (red or green, skin and seeds included)
-Green beans(cooked, frozen)
-Greens (cooking can reduce the amount of vitamins in these foods although some vitamin C will be retained by cooking, most being destroyed by prolonged heat).
A study shows that antioxidant concentration in leafy green vegetables is reduced considerably after boiling or steaming for 5 minutes. Boiling was more effective than steaming in reducing antioxidant levels.
The following foods are good sources of antioxidants but may not be as high in vitamins and minerals as some other choices:
-Honeydew melon (cubed, fresh)
-Honey ~(raw, local is best)
-Kale (cooked, frozen)
-Kiwi fruit (fresh or frozen)
-Lettuce (all types of leafy green vegetables are good sources of antioxidants but lettuce may contain less vitamins and minerals)
-Maca (raw, powdered and capsules available; rarely found outside of health food stores; majority of studies done on gelatinized maca in which nutrients are more easily absorbed into the body)
-Mango (fresh or frozen) -Nectarine(s)(fresh, frozen)
-Olive oil~(infused with herbs, for sauces or as a dip; virgin and extra virgin oils are most highly recommended to avoid rancidity)
-Papaya (fresh or frozen)
-Peach(es) (fresh, frozen or canned in light syrup)
-Pear(s) (fresh, frozen or canned in light syrup/no added sugar)
-Plums ~(fresh or dried; prunes are plums that have been dehydrated)
-Pomegranate (whole fruit is best)
-Potato (baked or boiled) ~ -Radish(es) -Raspberries~
-Spinach (raw, frozen, cooked)
-Strawberry(ies)(fresh or frozen; are a carbohydrate so only eat in moderation)
-Sweet potato/yam as a vegetable (steamed, baked, mashed) -Tomato(es) (raw or cooked but not fried; paste is used in some recipes for thickening soup and sauces).
-Watercress (low calorie, one cup fresh)
-Whole grain foods will contain a concentration of nutrients and can be fortified with vitamin B12 by law.
Be sure to check labels carefully.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants is good for your health. Antioxidants can help protect cells from free radicals, which are unstable atoms that cause oxidation and cell damage when they come into contact with them.
This causes inflammation, which has been linked to chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. By eating antioxidant-rich foods daily in your diet you may be able to reduce oxidative stress on your body while also supporting a healthy immune system!
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