Antioxidants have been frequently discussed in recent years for their ability to improve a person's health, like providing protection against free radicals. The harmful effects of free radicals include the damage they can do to cell membranes and DNA, which contributes to cancer and other diseases. Free radicals are found everywhere, including the environment and in certain foods, such as those that are fried.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants may combat free radicals and make them harmless by breaking their molecular structure down. There are dozens of different forms of antioxidants. Some of the most common antioxidants found in foods include vitamins A, C and E, selenium, beta carotene and lutein. Incorporating more foods rich in antioxidants is beneficial to overall health and can be done easily. Below are 10 antioxidant-rich foods to get you started.
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are high in the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin E. Beta carotene is beneficial to the body in a few ways, such as assisting the reproduction system and immune system in functioning properly. Vitamin E also helps keep red blood cells healthy. Consider adding more sweet potatoes to your diet by switching out regular French fries with baked sweet potato fries.
Kale may not be a vegetable everyone is familiar with, but it is a very good choice if you are trying to increase antioxidant foods in your diet. Kale contains beta carotene and lutein and several flavonoids. Together these various antioxidants help prevent inflammation in the body. Incorporating kale into your diet is as easy as adding a few leafs on top of your sandwich, burger or putting some kale into your salad.
Another food high in beta carotene and vitamin E is spinach. Spinach also contains the antioxidant lutein, which is important for maintaining good vision by preventing the formation of cataracts. It can also decrease the chances you’ll develop macular degeneration caused by aging. Add fresh spinach to salads, omelets or top your pizza with it.
Tomatoes are a great choice when selecting foods which are rich in antioxidants. Along with vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene, tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lycopene is beneficial to the body in several ways including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. It also plays a role in keeping bones healthy.
Blueberries are often at the top of nutritionists list for antioxidant-rich foods and with good reason. They contain the antioxidants beta carotene and lutein and vitamins A, C and E. If the antioxidant benefits of blueberries weren’t enough of a reason to add some to your diet, blueberries also contain fiber, folate and vitamin B complex.
Almonds contain a type of antioxidant known as flavonoids, which protects the body from inflammation, helps increase vitamin C effects and protects blood vessels in the body. Sprinkle a few in yogurt or oatmeal. In addition to the antioxidant benefits, almonds add protein and may help lower cholesterol.
7. Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is the part of a wheat kernel which contains the most nutrients including antioxidants vitamin E and selenium. Both antioxidants help improve the function of the immune system. Selenium also helps to regulate the function of the thyroid gland. Wheat germ is relatively easy to add into your diet. Put it on cereal or toast or add it to protein shakes and smoothies.
If your mom ever told you to eat your broccoli when you were a kid, she was right. Broccoli contains several antioxidants including vitamin C and E, lutein, and beta carotene. In addition, it also contains the antioxidant kaempferol, which may help reduce low-density lipoprotein and lower cholesterol levels, according to the LSU Agricultural Center. Raw or streamed is the best way to eat broccoli to get the most antioxidant benefits.
According to the University of Michigan Health System, beans contain phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants and may play a role in preventing the chances of developing colon cancer. Beans also contain additional antioxidants including selenium and vitamin C. Beans can be incorporated into your diet by tossing some in casseroles, soups and rice dishes.
Raisins contain both vitamin C and E and the antioxidant selenium. Raisins have triple the concentration of antioxidants compared to their counterpart, which are grapes. Add raisins to your diet by putting a handful in salads, cereal, rice or yogurt. Raisins are also low fat and make a quick snack on the go.
According to the National Cancer Institute, more studies are needed to conclusively state antioxidants can prevent cancer, but they do provide other health benefits. One of the main benefits of antioxidants is their ability to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Other health benefits include keeping the immune system functioning properly, maintaining bone health and decreasing inflammation in the body. With a little planning, it’s easy to add a few antioxidant-rich foods to your diet every day.