‘Antioxidants’ is a word that we see pop up on almost every health website, social feed, smoothie bottle, salad dish and grocery store. It is a buzzword that radiates ‘more life’, but how many of us actually know what an antioxidant is, its true benefit or how to explain it to others?
Antioxidants are compounds produced in our body and found in various foods. They help to protect your cells from damage caused by harmful and unstable molecules known as free radicals (sounds like a motorbike gang!)
We are exposed to free radicals via a lack of or too much exercise, lack of sleep, certain chemicals found in products, foods, cigarette smoke, pollution, radiation and even as a by-product of our own metabolism by eating too many calories, sugars and refined carbohydrates.
When these free radicals form in the body, they cause oxidative stress (cellular/DNA damage) that can lead to cell and tissue dysfunction.
Unless we combat this early, it can lead to ‘chronic oxidative stress’ which vastly increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers (1).
How can we prevent oxidative stress & free radical build up?
We can begin by limiting our exposure to free radicals by addressing some of the reasons above. In addition, we should pay close attention to increasing our intake of high antioxidant foods.
8 High Antioxidant Foods
There are several tests used to measure the quantity of antioxidants in particular foods. One of the most renowned tests is the FRAP analysis (Ferric Reducing Ability of Plasma). It measures how well the antioxidant found in particular foods can neutralize specific free radicals (2).
The higher the FRAP value a food has, the better it is. Here is our list of 8 healthy foods with high antioxidant levels in ascending order.
A detailed table of foods on the FRAP analysis can be found here.
Beetroot also known as ‘Beets’ (not the same as Dr. Dre’s Headphones) are the roots of a vegetable known as Beta Vulgaris. They are rich in the antioxidant Betalains which provide beets with their deep red/violet colour and have been linked to reducing the risk of colon and stomach cancer (3).
In addition, Beetroots are a great source of fiber, potassium, iron and folate. They also contain compounds that help to suppress inflammation, which makes it a great food choice for recovery and those suffering from osteoarthritis pain.
Based on the FRAP analysis, beetroots contain up to 1.7mmol of antioxidants per 100g.
2. Red Cabbage aka Purple Cabbage
Red cabbage is one of the foods highest in alkalinity and is nutrient dense. It contains high levels of Vitamin A, C and K. According to the FRAP Analysis, red cabbage contains 2.2mmol of antioxidants per 100g.
The antioxidant in red cabbage is known as anthocyanins, which help to provide the red/purple colour and also contain anti-inflammatory and powerful recovery benefits.
In addition, the Vitamin C content of red cabbage helps to strengthen the immune system, keep your skin vibrant and firm, as well as acts as an antioxidant within the body.
Research has shown that boiling or stir-frying red cabbage is better than steam cooking, as steaming can reduce its antioxidant content greatly (4).
Kale has been hailed a cruciferous superfood for many years now and with good reason!
Kale contains multiple antioxidants and like red cabbage is very rich in anthocyanins, Vitamin A, C and K. According to the FRAP analysis, Kale contains 2.8mmol of antioxidants per 100g.
In addition, Kale is a fantastic plant-based source of Calcium making it a powerful, must have option for Vegans and Vegetarians.
For the Kale lovers out there, that are wondering between red Kale and green. Research has found that some of the red varieties contain almost twice as much antioxidants, offering up to 4.1mmol per 100g.
Artichokes are an affordable, tasty and nutritious vegetable that often gets overlooked on the shelves. They pack a powerful amount of dietary fiber, essential minerals and high levels of the antioxidant known as chlorogenic acid.
According to the FRAP analysis, artichokes provide up to 3.5mmol of antioxidants per 100g.
Similar to red cabbage, the way that artichokes are cooked can affect their antioxidant content. Boiling them can raise the content by up to 8x and steaming can raise the content by up to 15x. Whereas, pan-frying them can actually reduce the antioxidant content (5).
Blueberries are popular, delicious, nutrient dense, high in fiber, low in calories and bursting with antioxidants. The antioxidants that blueberries contain have been shown to fight inflammation, reduce the risks of heart disease, lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduce blood pressure. In addition, they contain the highest content of antioxidants amongst the most commonly consumed fruits.
The FRAP analysis shows blueberries to contain up to 9.2mmol of antioxidants per 100g.
6. Dark Chocolate
It may not be the same as milk chocolate, but beggars can’t be choosers! Dark chocolate is king when it comes to sweet based nutrient dense foods. I know some of you are thinking that dark chocolate isn’t sweet but give it enough of a chance on the tongue and the sweetness does seep through.
Dark chocolate contains up to 15mmol in antioxidants per 100g, contains healthy fats, helps to raise HDL Cholesterol (good cholesterol), reduces blood pressure, increases serotonin (your happy hormone), fights inflammation and reduces the risk of heart disease.
What other reason do you need to add chocolate, I mean “Dark Chocolate” to your diet?
Walnuts boast a tremendous amount of health benefits. They are full of healthy omega-3 fats, reduce LDL Cholesterol, boost brain function and health, reduce disruptive sleep and stress levels, helps the digestive system, fights fungal infections, delays skin aging and powers your immune system.
If you do not have a nut allergy, consider adding walnuts into your diet. The FRAP analysis shows walnuts to contain up to 21.9mmol of polyphenol antioxidants per 100g.
Polyphenols help to fight against ultraviolet radiation and aggressive pathogens (6).
Yes, that’s right at the top of our list is ‘Allspice’. For starters it packs an aroma that makes your nose lead the way, it adds flavor that has your tongue salivating and is literally jam packed with antioxidants.
According to the FRAP analysis ground Allspice contains 100mmol of antioxidants per 100g.
For those of you that don’t know Allspice derives from the dried fruit of the Pimento tree. It is commonly used in Caribbean dishes and has been adopted all over the world. The benefits are plenty, with the most notable being:
• Anti-inflammatory properties – great for those suffering with Muscle Aches, Gout and Arthritis
• Aids in digestion
• High in copper and iron – Improves blood circulation
• Increases dental health
• Increases heart health
Allspice makes a fantastic addition to your meals. However, as with anything use with caution as it can cause allergic reactions in hypersensitive individuals and should be avoided by those who suffer with gastric and colon issues.
Although highly important and very much necessary, antioxidants can be produced by the body as well as ingested from many foods such as those in our list above.
When eating healthy, too much of a good thing can also be detrimental to health. Be sure to find balance in your eating and make dietary changes gradually and with caution. We always recommend to any client that suffers mild reactions after eating such as bloating, constipation, loose bowels, frequent or infrequent urination or any other abnormalities to seek dietary advice and consider going on an elimination diet to see what foods they may be intolerant to.
Healthy eating is an exciting and wonderful process when carried out properly. However, we know that time is a limiting factor for many people. The use of high quality, natural supplements is a great option for those that struggle with meeting dietary requirements.
Our two antioxidant picks of the day are:
1. ALA – Alpha Lipoic Acid Capsules ALA (also known as Thioctic acid) is a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage, restore vitamin levels and break down carbohydrates to make energy for other organs in the body. In addition, ALA helps to improve insulin sensitivity. This is ideal for those interested in fat loss and lean muscle growth.
2. Green Tea Extract Green Tea Extract is a potent antioxidant that is good for heart, liver and brain health. It has also been shown to promote weight loss. This is because green tea extract is rich in catechins and caffeine. Both of these have been shown to reduce weight by regulating the hormones responsible for enhancing thermogenesis (the process in which the body burns calories to digest food). A hugely popular and effective option when fat loss is your key fitness goal.
Follow MrandMrsMuscle for direct updates on workouts, meal plans, trends plus more!