Top 3 Healthy Foods High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds produced in your body and found in foods. They help defend your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals.
When free radicals accumulate, they may cause a state known as oxidative stress. This may damage your DNA and other important structures in your cells.
Sadly, chronic oxidative stress can increase your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Fortunately, eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help increase your blood antioxidant levels to fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of these diseases.
Scientists use several tests to measure the antioxidant content of foods.
One of the best tests is the FRAP (ferric reducing ability of plasma) analysis. It measures the antioxidant content of foods by how well they can neutralize a specific free radical.
The higher the FRAP value, the more antioxidants the food contains.
Lucky for chocolate lovers, dark chocolate is nutritious. It has more cocoa than regular chocolate, as well as more minerals and antioxidants.
Based on the FRAP analysis, dark chocolate has up to 15 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). This is even more than blueberries and raspberries, which contain up to 9.2 and 2.3 mmol of antioxidants in the same serving size, respectively.
Moreover, the antioxidants in cocoa and dark chocolate have been linked to impressive health benefits such as less inflammation and reduced risk factors for heart disease.
For example, a review of 10 studies looked at the link between cocoa intake and blood pressure in both healthy people and those with high blood pressure.
Consuming cocoa-rich products like dark chocolate reduced systolic blood pressure (the upper value) by an average of 4.5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the lower value) by an average of 2.5 mmHg.
Another study found that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease by raising blood antioxidant levels, raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and preventing “bad” LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized.
Oxidized LDL cholesterol is harmful because it promotes inflammation in the blood vessels, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
SUMMARY: Dark chocolate is delicious, nutritious and one of the best sources of antioxidants. Generally speaking, the higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants the chocolate contains.
Pecans are a type of nut native to Mexico and South America. They are a good source of healthy fats and minerals, plus contain a high amount of antioxidants.
Based on a FRAP analysis, pecans contain up to 10.6 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
In addition, pecans can help raise antioxidant levels in the blood.
For example, a study found that people who consumed 20% of their daily calories from pecans experienced significantly increased blood antioxidant levels.
In another study, people who consumed pecans experienced a 26–33% fall in oxidized blood LDL levels within two to eight hours. High levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease.
Although pecans are a great source of healthy fats, they are also high in calories. So it’s important to eat pecans in moderation to avoid consuming too many calories.
SUMMARY:Pecans are popular nuts rich in minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants. They may also help raise blood antioxidant levels and lower bad cholesterol.
Although they are low in calories, blueberries are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
According to a FRAP analysis, blueberries have up to 9.2 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Several studies even suggest that blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants among all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.
In addition, research from test-tube and animal studies has shown that the antioxidants in blueberries may delay the decline in brain function that tends to happen with age.
Researchers have suggested that the antioxidants in blueberries may be responsible for this effect. They’re thought to do this by neutralizing harmful free radicals, reducing inflammation and changing the expression of certain genes.
Additionally, the antioxidants in blueberries, especially a type called anthocyanins, have been shown to reduce risk factors for heart disease, lowering LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
SUMMARY: Blueberries are among the best sources of antioxidants in the diet. They are rich in anthocyanins and other antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and delay the decline in brain function that happens with age.