While our bodies make their own antioxidants, it is important that we supplement by eating antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidant supplements are also available and many people may opt for this route, but studies have shown that foods rich in antioxidants reduce oxidative stress more than antioxidant supplements. That said, whole foods contain an abundance of naturally occurring antioxidants that work together synergistically and that is why we should try and get most of our antioxidants from these.
Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and carotenoids are found predominantly in fruits and vegetables, although antioxidants are also found in other foods. The only caveat is that plants are only capable of producing a high amount of antioxidants if they have been grown in mineral-rich soil. This is why organic fruits and vegetable are better. For more on organic produce, please click on this link and if you want some tips on how to eat organic on a budget, please click on this link. Here are some of the best sources of antioxidants and it is best to try and eat antioxidant-rich foods everyday:
- Berries – these are one of the best sources of antioxidants, especially the dark berries like blueberries, black berries and acai berries. Other berries like strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and goji berries (for more on goji berries, please click on this link) are also great sources of antioxidants. Just make sure to buy organic berries if possible.
- Fruits – fruits are a great source of antioxidants and my favourites are acai berries, cherries, red apples, plums, red grapes, guavas, oranges and pomegranates. The darker and more colourful the colour of the fruit the better.
- Vegetables – all vegetables contain antioxidants, but to yield the most antioxidants it is best that the vegetables are cooked. It is best to select a variety of different vegetables and make sure to eat a rainbow of colours (the more colourful the better). My personal favourites are kale, broccoli, spinach, red cabbage, asparagus, artichokes, carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Spices and Herbs– spices and herbs are fantastic sources of antioxidants and they can literally make any dish come alive with flavour. When measured by weight, spices are the richest sources of antioxidants. My favourite spices and herbs are turmeric (for more on this spice, please click on this link), cloves, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, thyme. parsley, basil and sage.
- Legumes – beans and lentils are a great source of antioxidants, however I highly recommend that they be prepared correctly before cooking, especially beans. When using dried beans it is best to soak the beans overnight in an acidic solution (water plus some lemon juice or vinegar), discard the soaking water the next day, rinse them and then cook them with fresh water (adding a piece of kombu will add minerals to the beans). This helps reduce and neutralise things like phytic acid. Lentils do not require soaking, but I personally soak them for at least half an hour, discard the soaking water and then rinse them before I cook them.
- Nuts – nuts are not only a great source of antioxidants, but also protein and healthy fats. I highly recommend eating raw nuts over the roasted varieties, as roasting alters the beneficial qualities of nuts. That said, raw nuts should be soaked before eating to remove the enzyme inhibitors that they contain. Thereafter they can be “dried” using a hydrator or they can be put in the oven at a very low temperature. Look out for a future blog post on how to prepare nuts and seeds for optimal digestion.
- Green Tea – green tea is prized for its health benefits and I drink one cup a day as part of my health regime. I personally prefer Japanese green tea over Chinese green tea and other varieties, as Japanese green tea is green when brewed and not brown like most other green teas. Just a cautionary note, green tea does contain caffeine, so I don’t recommend drinking more than two cups per day.
- Chocolate – chocolate lovers are going to be so happy to hear that chocolate does have some health benefits, however quality is the key. The more processed the chocolate, the less antioxidants it will contain and it is best to avoid the milk and white chocolate varieties. Dark and minimally-processed chocolate is best. This means that chocolate should contain at least 70% if not more cocoa/cacao. Raw cacao is better as it is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans, whereas cocoa has been roasted. That said, both are excellent sources of antioxidants. Just be sure to limit your consumption to one or two squares per day/every other day and not eat the whole bar at one sitting!
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment for any medical condition. It is solely to be used as nutritional and lifestyle recommendations to support a healthier body.