Antioxidants serve as a strong first line of defense against damage to your cells from aging, stress, and inflammation. In addition, antioxidants appear to have anti-cancer properties and support the immune system (among many other benefits).
Many, many foods, especially colorful vegetables, contain a number of valuable antioxidants. We have listed some of the most effective and popular options for each class of antioxidants. Here we will go through the most important ones.
What do antioxidants do?
Antioxidants are molecules that trap free radicals or harmful oxygen atoms that occur in response to normal body processes and environmental conditions. Even simple digestion of your food creates free radicals.
Over time, an excess of free radicals can slowly damage healthy cells and then healthy tissues and eventually organs. You want to minimize the damage, and antioxidants can protect you.
Your body can make some antioxidants and you get others from food.
Antioxidants can be divided into two general categories: antioxidant enzymes, and antioxidant nutrientsthat contain vitamins, minerals and the various -noids Described below.
Antioxidant vitamins can be broken down into flavonoids and carotenoids.
Flavonoids (also called bioflavonoids) are polyphenol pigment compounds that are found in most flowering plants. They are usually grouped under Anthocyanidins, Proanthocyanins, and Phenols. The coolest thing about flavonoid antioxidants: they offer a double blow because they improve the antioxidant properties of vitamin C.
Foods containing flavonoids include tea, citrus, citrus juices, berries, red wine, apples and others.
Carotenoids are fat-soluble vitamins. (Beta-carotene is the most studied, but there are more than 600 carotenoids we know of. Other popular ones are lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene.)
Many sources will say that a particular carotenoid, beta-carotene, is the same as vitamin A, which is not exactly true. A percentage of beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body, but not everything. It is best to get vitamin A from foods like liver, salmon, and others.
Foods rich in carotenoids include apricots, beef liver, beets, broccoli, melon, carrots, guavas, mangoes, salmon and others. Fruits and vegetables that are orange, red, and yellow are usually sources of carotenoids
The antioxidant enzymes are superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx).
SOD: Cruciferous vegetables are a must!
CAT: Get enough iron from beef, mushrooms, and bold greens to ensure proper catalase production.
GPx: Selenium activates this enzyme, so include plenty of eggs, chicken, and fresh garlic in your diet. If you want to supplement glutathione, you can take n-acetylcysteine or NAC, a building block of glutathione that gives your body what it needs to produce more.
Super Food List: The best antioxidant foods by ORAC value
The antioxidative quality of food is measured as an ORAC value, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absobance Capacity. Here is a list of some of the best antioxidant foods with the highest USDA ORAC scores:
- Plums: 5770
- Raisins: 2830
- Blueberries: 2400
- Blackberries: 2036
- Kale: 1770
- Strawberries: 1540
- Spinach: 1260
- Raspberries: 1220
- Brussels sprouts: 980
- Plums: 949
- Alfalfa sprouts: 930
- Broccoli flowers: 890
- Turnips: 840
- Oranges: 750
- Red grapes: 739
- Red peppers: 710
- Cherries: 670
- Kiwi: 602
- Grapefruit, pink: 483
- Onion: 450
- Corn: 400 *
- Eggplant: 390
* Corn is a grain that may not work in people who follow an original lifestyle.
These lists of antioxidants and antioxidant foods are certainly not exhaustive as thousands of phytonutrients are being studied and more are being discovered each year. Conclusion: the more you get, the better. A combination of prudent supplement and ample, colorful Vegetables are your smartest bet.
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