Antioxidant are among the most controversial topic in nutrition and health. It has gained popularity due to health benefits and its conflicting results.
The benefits include protection from major of chronic diseases like cancer, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes. and other diseases related to free radicals and inflammation.
While the conflicting result, says it can health problem, but those results are due to supplementation. For now, focus on the intake of antioxidants through food as its the best way to get antioxidants.
Many claims are made by researchers about the role of antioxidants and the way it works, it’s not clear how they protect depending on certain condition. The food we eat or the foods available naturally are loaded with other phytonutrients which increase antioxidants ability, is still not known. Whenever we look over a food, we consider its main nutrients but are also loaded with lots more nutrients in a small amount and they might be adding more benefits to our health when we eat those type of foods.
Getting benefits from supplements is still controversial due to its conflicting result. The actual data is yet to be explored, but whatever may be the result in coming time, we still need antioxidants.
What are Antioxidant?
Antioxidant are compounds produced by plants to defend themselves from the process of oxidation. When a plant goes through photosynthesis, it leads to the production of the high amount of oxygen. To deal with oxygen and prevent damage, the plant produces antioxidants in defense.
The antioxidant produced by plants to protect itself from oxidation and other damage, enter in our diet when we eat them.
Just like a burning fire need oxygen, every cell in our body needs a steady supply of oxygen to derive energy from digested foods. Everything comes with a cost, when we consume oxygen, energy is released required to sustain life, it also leads to the production of free radicals.
Free radicals are a highly unstable module that can damage healthy cells. They are highly active because they contain an unpaired electron, and electrons prefer to pair up to become stable. So these free radicals prefer to search molecule to steal an electron. This stealing of electron leads to the production of more unstable free radicals. The matter that has lost its electron in this manner is said to be “oxidized”.
To stop such stealing of electrons from a healthy molecule and prevent damage, antioxidants play role in neutralizing those free radicals.
Excess accumulation of free radicals is known as oxidative stress. Oxidative can damage DNA and other important structure in your cells. Chronic oxidative stress can also increase of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diseases, and cancer. (1)
To handle such negative impact of free radicals, nature has provided foods with disease-fighting antioxidants into fruits, vegetables, grains, and even spices.
According to the Hong Kong scientist who tested the antioxidant power equivalent portions of 34 fruits and vegetables, these are among the ones that pack the most antioxidants.
Here are the top 20 healthy fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants.
Considering to add fruit to your diet, consider strawberry as you health best partner. Strawberries are a good source of pectin and other soluble fiber that help to lower cholesterol and protect from heart disease.
Along with fiber, it is known for high antioxidant, polyphenols. It also contains bioflavonoids, including red anthocyanin and ellagic acids, substances that prevent some cancer.
Although strawberry phenolics was known for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, studies have shown their biological activities also spread to other pathways involved in cellular metabolism and cellular survival. (2)
One serving (eight strawberries) provide more Vitamin C than an orange.
Ideal for flavoring everything from fish to vegetables to tea, lemon is one of the most widely used of all citrus fruit. With an excellent source of Vitamin C, it is perfect for an old-fashioned thirst quencher.
Vitamin C is one of the main antioxidant found in lemon, one cup of lemon juice has about 55 mg of Vitamin C (more than 70 per cent of RDA).
Want to start the day with a healthy start, drink a glass of lemon water as you wake up. This ritual can be continued life-long and you will receive lots of antioxidants and other healthy nutrients, during the start of the day.
There are many reasons reason to start a day with lemon water (warm or cold), like clear skin, healthy detoxification (without any detoxification diet), clear kidney stone, better immune system, better hydration, fresh breath and much more.
To get all these benefits you need to start the day with few drops of lemon.
Plum, low in calories but contains vital vitamins and minerals. One medium-sized plum contains only 36 calories yet provides several nutrients including 6 mg of Vitamin C.
Some studies have shown that plums contain twice the amount of polyphenol, antioxidants, as compared to nectarine, peaches, and plum.
Plum contains anthocyanin, a special type of polyphenols, the reddish blue pigment that lends them their intense color. They are found to protect against the risk of heart disease and cancer. Prefer to eat whole fruit with skin, where major antioxidants are present. (3, 4, 5)
You will get a recommendation to add Oranges in the diet to get a healthy dose of Vitamin C. It is one of the most popular fruit in the world and generally available from winter through summer with seasonal variations.
In a study, it is found that citrus fruit provides more benefits than previously calculated. Our body absorbs and utilizes nutrients, but the rate of absorption matter when it comes to optimum utilization. (6)
Citrus fruit not only contains antioxidants but also soluble fiber and pectin which are fed by microbiome.
The microbiomes are responsible for the complete breakdown of foods thus promoting maximum absorption of antioxidants and other deep-stored nutrients, making more nutrients available from each which would have got lost without healthy microbiome.
You hear about choosing a whole fruit over fruit juice, it is one of reason and a very crucial one. Earlier we thought, to get more antioxidants we need to eat more food, but we can more nutrients from a whole fruit rather than the juice of more oranges. The same rule applies to other fruits, so prefer a whole fruit when possible.
Kiwifruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C along with a great companion of Vitamin E, flavonoids, and carotenoids.
A large kiwi provides around 80mg of Vitamin C.
The combination of Vitamin C and E Improves skin health. While lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants are associated with eye health.
Grapefruit, the most popular fruit among dieters to lose weight (fat loss).
Some studies agree that grapefruits antioxidant are helpful in weight loss as it helps to break down fatty acids. Yet the effectivity of grapefruit on weight loss can’t be concluded but the antioxidant content surely a great addition to a diet. (7)
Half a grapefruit provides more than 45 per cent of RDA of Vitamin C. With Vitamin C, it also contains beta-carotene, lycopene, flavanones which are responsible to protect from some cancer, prevent tumor growth, etc.
Pink and red grapefruits are high in lycopene, and it can protect from prostate cancer. Other antioxidants are phenolic acids, limonoids, terpenes, and monoterpenes.
Persimmon benefits owe to a complete antioxidant composition of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Lutein Zeaxanthin protects from the damage of free radicals.
They flush these free radicals from the body before they cause any damage to the healthy cells.
Persimmon also contains betulinic acid which is anti-tumor and can hamper the growth of cancerous cells in the body. It also contains tannins that have shown to help relieve inflammation.
8. Apple (green)
Apple, an ideal you can carry is a flavorful, filling and low in calories; 140 gram of fruit has 90 calories. Among the red and green apple, prefer the green as they higher antioxidant content.
Green apple is a great source of Vitamin and Flavonoids quercetin. Eat a whole apple with skin to get the pectin and soluble fiber.
Tip: Wash apple before eating to pesticide intake.
9. Pak Choi (Purple)
Pak choi (member of cabbage family) has a number of different names including bok choy, Chinese celery cabbage horse’s ear, and white mustard cabbage. (8)
The purple Bok Choi is referred as “Purple Choy” or “Pak Choi Rubi”.
Pak Choi and other cruciferous vegetable have certain anti-cancer properties. An excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) are the core antioxidants.
It contains phytonutrients like quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin, and numerous phenolic acids like hydroxycinnamic acids. It is also shown to contain anthocyanidins—the red-purple pigments that belong to the flavonoid category of antioxidants.
The credit to its anti-inflammatory benefits even goes to its Omega 3 and Vitamin K content.
10. Spring Onion
Spring onion is a good source of Vitamin C, carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, along with Vitamin K. It is also rich in a powerful sulfur-containing compound called allyl sulphide that helps in reducing the risk of developing colon cancer.
Mandarin are smaller than oranges but provides a boost of vitamins and minerals, yet contains fewer calories.
A cup of mandarin provides 28 per cent of RDA of Vitamin C. It also contains the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. hesperetin and naringenin are the two common flavonoids in oranges.
A cup of fresh mango tout contains 128 per cent of Vitamin C of RDA and other phytonutrients prove beneficial.
Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant present in onion providing it anti-cancer benefit.
Phytochemicals in onions are disulfides, trisulfides, cepaene, and vinyldithiins, provides anticancer and antimicrobial property.
14. Apple (red)
As mentioned earlier, Apple is a great source of antioxidants. But in the studies by Hong Kong scientists, green apple to be higher than the red apple, but it may a marginal difference, so there is no need to avoid red apple.
The nutritional value difference is marginal, so eat whatever available rather than waiting for green apple.
15. Turnip (Green)
Turnip green is a great source of beta-carotene and lutein, found in the upper and lower leaves.
Glucosinolates, a sulphur-containing nutrient is a reason to add Turnip green in the diet. It is well known for their link to cancer prevention and ability to support detox process within cells. (9)
Vitamin A and C are present in the leafy green like a green turnip.
16. Cabbage (long)
Researchers have found 20 different flavonoids and 15 different phenols in cabbage, all have antioxidant property.
With all those antioxidants, cabbage also contains Vitamin C and anthocyanin.
Broccoli contains phytochemicals glucobrassicin; carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin and beta-carotene; and kaempferol, a flavonoid.
Broccoli’s isothiocyanates, including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, boost detoxifying enzymes and act as antioxidants.
Phytochemical glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin, they aid all steps of the body’s detoxification process, from activation to neutralization and elimination of contaminants.
Glucosinolates, a phytonutrient present in cauliflower provide varieties of health benefits.
It provides a range of benefits from cardiovascular, digestive, immunity, inflammatory to detoxification system.
With vitamin C it also contains antioxidant phytonutrients beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol.
Garlic and garlic extract provides protection against free radical damage through their antioxidant activities. The four compound providing it antioxidant property areallyl cysteine, alliin, allicin, and allyl disulfide. (10)
Consumption of garlic has shown to increase antioxidants enzymes in humans.
Tomatoes are loaded with antioxidants such as lycopene, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A.
Raw tomatoes are great, but cooked one makes the lycopene more accessible. You can eat in form of sauce, fresh, cooked and even sun-dried.