Antioxidants are powerful natural compounds.
They are the body’s best defense against aging, illness, and even Alzheimer’s.
Antioxidants are produced in your body, but they can also be found in certain foods (1).
As a whole, they are crucial for good health.
Antioxidants work to keep your body and health in check by fending off free radicals. Free radicals are inevitable byproducts of your body. But at high levels, they can cause a state called oxidative stress, which may damage your cells.
Chronic oxidative stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and many other slews of diseases.
One of the best ways to prevent cell damage and reduce health risks is to get more antioxidants.
Foods with antioxidant content are not only an easy but also nutritious way to boost your health. Not to mention, nutrients benefit your body the best when taken through foods.
One way to measure the level of antioxidants in foods is ORAC. It stands for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.
we assembled a list of 12 foods high in antioxidant content based on the ORAC Score.
But before we get right to the list, let’s take a look at what antioxidants are and what an antioxidant food is.
What Are Antioxidants?
While we covered what are antioxidants in a separate post, let’s do a quick review here.
Antioxidants are different nutrients that occur naturally in plant-based foods.
These substances are highly valued for their preventative benefits in cell damages. They not only fight off free radicals but also bring other health benefits.
Some of those minerals and vitamins include carotenoids, flavonols, phenols, vitamins A, C, and E.
Each vitamin and mineral contribute to the body in its unique way. But they all act as the body’s natural defense system against oxidants.
What Is An Antioxidant Food?
An antioxidant food is a food rich in antioxidative substances.
Plant-based whole foods, in particular, are often found to be rich in antioxidants.
While many substances can act as antioxidants, here are some that are more familiar and notable.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
With that in mind, these 12 foods particularly score high on ORAC measures. Add them to your diet regularly to improve your health and more.
12 best foods high in antioxidants
1. Goji Berries
Goji berries are one of the most nutritionally dense fruits on the planet.
They’re loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytonutrients, including vitamin B12, A, C, and iron.
In fact, goji berries contain more vitamin C than any other fruits on earth.
Goji berries are also an excellent source of protein. One 28 gram serving has 3 grams of protein. While it’s not a huge amount,
These small sweet berries are also considered one of the best sources of antioxidants (9).
They benefit the body by boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of heart disease and cancers.
2. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is packed with nutrients that can positively affect your health.
In fact, the unprocessed cocoa beans are among the most antioxidants containing foods on the planet.
Dark chocolate or cocoa is an incredible source of antioxidants. And it contains polyphenols, flavanols, catechins that are considered antioxidative.
They benefit the body by lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.
And their antioxidant value is well studied and proven.
One study shows cacao contains more antioxidants activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than blueberries and Acai berries.
However, not all chocolate, let alone dark chocolates are all the same. Be sure to get chocolate with over 70% cacao content. Anything less tends to be less nutritional as cacao is diluted and replaced by milk and sugar.
3. Pecan Nuts
Pecans are #1 antioxidants among all nuts based on their ORAC scores.
They are an excellent source of ellagic acid, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
They are antioxidants that contribute to glowing skin and a healthy heart.
They may even help fight off the risks associated with cancer and early death (13).
Just like almonds, pecans are also high in monounsaturated fats. They are healthy fats that help improve cholesterol levels by lowering the bad cholesterol, aka LDL. All while, they work to also improve levels of HDL, the good cholesterol.
They’re also packed with magnesium, iron, calcium, selenium, and zinc —like almonds and pumpkin seeds.
Among nuts and seeds, pecan nuts’ B vitamin contents are one of the highest. They also include a wide variety from riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folate.
B vitamins help improve your mood, metabolism, thyroid function, and digestion.
Also, check out the list of other healthy nuts.
4. Wild Blueberries
Wild blueberries are a nutrient-rich food packed with dietary fiber, vitamin K, C, and manganese.
There’s about 6.2 g of dietary fiber per cup, which provides 25% of your recommended Daily Value (DV).
Per studies, fiber-rich foods may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Wild blueberries are also an excellent source of manganese. In fact, one cup provides 200% DV of manganese, a trace of mineral that plays an important role in bone development and other bodily functions.
Wild blueberries are also made up of about 80% of water. This brings down their calories to just 80 calories per cup.
What’s more impressive is their ORAC value. They value higher than most other fruits and vegetables, which helps neutralize free radicals.
Elderberries, also known as healing berries do just that —heal.
These berries may help improve your immune system, lessen stress, and protect you from heart disease.
They are incredibly nutritious and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals including fiber and vitamins C and A.
1 cup (145 g) of elderberries provides 10 g of dietary fiber, which is about 40 % of the daily recommended value. It also provides 87% of infection-fighting vitamin C.
This is reportedly more than any other plants besides black currants and rosehips (18).
Other prominent ingredients in elderberries include iron as well as potassium, vitamin B6, and beta-carotene.
In ancient medicine, elderberries were widely used to treat wounds by applying to the skin. It was also taken by mouth to treat respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. In addition, elderberries may also have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-influenza, and anticancer properties.
If your body needs some healing properties, be sure to include elderberries into your diet.
Cranberries are close to the top of the list—as far as health foods go.
They are rich in nutrients and antioxidant properties. Not to mention, they are low in calories. 1 cup of cranberries is only 45 calories. Eating even a handful would hardly cause a dent in your diet.
Among all, cranberries are the fruit with the greatest antioxidants properties.
They are also a very good source of vitamins E, C, K, dietary fiber, and manganese, copper, and pantothenic acid.
Researchers believe that cranberries have superpowers— and they can help you heal from head to toes. On top of the list, they may help improve your cholesterol, protect you from heart disease and even cancer.
One study shows that people who drank a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice a day increased their HDL, good, cholesterol by about 10%.
Overall cranberries can be a great addition to your healthy diet.
Artichoke is one of the best veggies to add to your diet if you want to improve your health and lower your risk of many illnesses including cancer.
This somewhat unconventional vegetable is a secret nutritional powerhouse with superfood benefits. This green vegetable can help protect you against certain cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart attack, and even stroke.
It has also shown to enhance immune system strength and lower cholesterol, which only adds more health power to you.
For those into detox, artichoke is a must on your list. It offsets your digestive issues and constipation, and even irritable syndrome.
Furthermore, they may help reduce blood pressure, eliminate hangovers, and stimulate urination.
The best part is, eating a whole load only packs in nutrients, not fat or cholesterol.
They are low in fat and cholesterol while being super-rich in fiber and other vitamins. Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamins C, B-6, B-12, A, E, D, and K are some on the list.
Artichokes also provide minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.
As for its antioxidants activity level, artichoke is ranked #7 in out of 1,000 other plant-foods per USDA research.
8. Kidney Beans
If you’re looking to boost your antioxidants intake with something that’s not veggies or fruits, look no further.
Kidney beans are another top-ranking antioxidants food you can actually feel incredibly satisfied.
They are a healthy source of several vitamins and minerals. They contain molybdenum, folate, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin K1 and even phosphorus.
What’s more, kidney beans also rank very low on the glycemic index list. It’s a measure of how foods affect blood sugar after a meal.
Lower the score, less impact it makes on your blood sugar, giving you a better handle on its levels.
Another incredible benefit of kidney beans is its richness in dietary fiber. They contain significant amounts of resistant starch that helps stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol.
Research has also shown how resistant starch plays an important role in weight management.
Prunes may be known as a food on its own. But the fact is they are basically plums that have been dried naturally in the sun without undergoing any fermentation process.
They are incredibly nutritious and aid your bone health. One study reveals eating dried plums significantly increases the bone mineral density of ulna and spine.
Prunes are also a good source of energy that doesn’t shoot up your blood sugar levels. This makes them a great snack for those with type 2 diabetes.
Besides that, prunes are one of the most fiber-rich, antioxidant foods with potassium, iron and retinol, vitamin K and beta-carotene.
Just one cup of prunes provides 87% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. It also contains 20% of most B vitamins.
10. Red Apple
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” is not just your grandma’s two cents.
There is much truth to the old, famous saying.
Apples are not only an accessible, tasty fruit loved by anyone from a little toddler to your grandma. They are a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
Red apples, in particular, contain a class of antioxidant compounds called Phytochemicals.
They are plant compounds that protect your body against chronic disease by inhibiting cell proliferation and regulating the immune system and inflammatory response.
The phytochemicals you see commonly in fruits and vegetables are the flavonoids. In the United States, 22% of all dietary flavonoids consumption comes from apples, making them the second-largest source in our diets.
But out of all apples, red apple are packed a heftier antioxidant punch and disease-fighting abilities than other apples. So, when in doubt, grab red apples for higher antioxidant properties.
Apples are easy to pack, portable and not messy, unlike other fruits, making them ideal for healthy snacking on the go.
With only 62 calories per cup, virtually no fat and cholesterol, blackberries are a true guilt-free pleasure.
They also provide nutrients almost anyone can appreciate.
One cup of blackberries provides 7.6 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of sodium. That’s more than triple of fiber in 1 tbsp of flaxseeds.
If you are one of the 97% of us who is fiber deficient, having two handfuls of blackberries can satisfy half of your daily recommended fiber intake.
If you are trying to lose weight, blackberries can also be a great addition to your diet.
They are a great source of quick energy. They are also rich in fiber, which keeps you full longer.
Also, they are fat-free and full of essential nutrients, fueling your body and metabolism to the fullest. Their nutrient list is quite extensive. It includes vitamins C, A, E, K and B vitamins and lutein and zeaxanthin, which are also antioxidants.
Blackberries also include minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin. If you want a well-rounded fruit that leaves almost no dent in your weight loss diet, blackberries are it.
One last notable mention goes to their anthocyanins content. Anthocyanins are flavonoid compounds that give pigments to foods. Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are full of vibrant rich colors thanks to anthocyanins.
Cilantro is a popular Mediterranean herb that also goes by the name coriander in Asia.
It’s widely used in a variety of cuisines in almost all parts of the world. Cilantro is not only savory but a notable plant for disease prevention and health-promoting properties.
While it’s calorie and cholesterol-free, it’s rich in anti-oxidant polyphenolic flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and epigenin.
It’s also a great source of potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium especially is known to help regulate blood pressure and heart rate.
About 30% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant can also be found in every 100g.
Cilantro’s vitamin K dose is no less valuable. It’s widely known for its role in bone.
As you can see, antioxidants are naturally available in many plant-based foods. Everything from berries, green tea, and cocoa—have some antioxidant properties.
Whether for cancer prevention or health boosts, eat a variety of these foods to enjoy the antioxidants.
Another unsuspected source of antioxidants is herbs and spices. We named cilantro on our list. But there are other ones. Herbs like oregano, thyme, ginger, basil, parsley, and turmeric, even cinnamon are rich in antioxidants. Some of these actually scored higher on the ORAC measures than some foods on the list.
So don’t shy away from using herbs. They can easily be added to your cooking and make a nice garnish.
I hope you got your question “what is antioxidant food” answered and you have a variety of foods to add to your diet. Eating a diet rich in antioxidant properties is an effective way to help protect you from heart disease, cancer and more.
- (1) https://nutrition.tufts.edu/research/hnrca-lab/antioxidants-research-lab
- (2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5874578/