The Best Food Sources of Antioxidants

Blueberries with dew
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Choosing the best food sources of antioxidants can go a long way in enhancing your health and fighting disease. A class of compounds found in a wide range of foods (especially plant-derived foods), antioxidants help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals. It's thought that increasing your intake of the best food sources of antioxidants can help fend off a host of major health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and some forms of cancer.

What Types of Foods Are the Good Sources of Antioxidants?

Many vegetables, fruits, and other types of foods are excellent sources of antioxidant compounds, including: anthocyanins, carotenoids (such as beta-carotene), lutein, lycopene, resveratrol, selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Furthermore, many whole foods provide a variety of antioxidant compounds, each with its own unique health effects. For example, grapes contain anthocyanins, vitamin C, resveratrol, and selenium, while dark leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens offer vitamins C and E, lutein, and an antioxidant called kaempferol.

While vegetables and fruits serve as some of the best food sources of antioxidants, you can also fill up on antioxidant compounds by eating legumes and nuts, drinking tea (such as green tea and black tea), and using herbs and spices in your cooking. Snack foods like popcorn and dark chocolate also deliver a number of antioxidants.

The 20 Best Food Sources of Antioxidants

For a report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) performed what is considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods.

The USDA scientists ranked these foods according to their total antioxidant capacity, which is a measure of the antioxidants' ability to neutralize free radicals.

In their research on more than 100 foods, the report's authors found the following items to be the best food sources of antioxidants:

Food, Serving Size, Antioxidant Capacity Per Serving

Small red bean (dried), 1/2 cup, 13,727

Wild blueberries, 1 cup, 13,427

Red kidney beans (dried), 1/2 cup, 13,259

Pinto beans, 1/2 cup, 11,864

Blueberries (cultivated), 1 cup, 9,019

Cranberries, 1 cup (whole), 8,983

Artichoke hearts, 1 cup, 7,904

Blackberries, 1 cup, 7,701

Prunes, 1/2 cup, 7,291

Raspberries, 1 cup, 6,058

Strawberries, 1 cup, 5,938

Red delicious apples, 1, 5,900

Granny Smith apples, 1, 5,381

Pecans, 1 ounce, 5,095

Sweet cherries, 1 cup, 4,873

Black plums, 1, 4,844

Russet potatoes, 1 cooked, 4,649

Black beans (dried), 1/2 cup, 4,181

Plums, 1, 4,118

Gala apples, 1, 3,903

Why Should You Get Your Antioxidants from Food?

While many individuals take antioxidant supplements, following a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods is considered the preferred way of boosting your antioxidant levels.

In addition to containing a wide array of antioxidant compounds, these foods provide other key components of a healthy diet, such as minerals and dietary fiber.

Although some preliminary studies suggest that antioxidant supplements may help thwart disease development by reducing oxidative stress, more research is needed before such supplements can be recommended for disease prevention. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that findings from rigorous scientific studies involving a total of more than 100,000 people have largely indicated that antioxidant supplements may not reduce risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.

There's also some concern that taking antioxidants in supplement form may interfere with your body's ability to absorb other important nutrients.

How to Boost Your Intake of the Best Food Sources of Antioxidants

To load up on antioxidants, follow a balanced diet that includes plenty of plant-derived foods and limits your intake of processed food items. Aiming for nine servings of vegetables and fruits per day is a great way to increase your intake of the best food sources of antioxidants.


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Carlsen MH1, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, Bøhn SK, Dragland S, Sampson L, Willey C, Senoo H, Umezono Y, Sanada C, Barikmo I, Berhe N, Willett WC, Phillips KM, Jacobs DR Jr, Blomhoff R. "The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide." Nutr J. 2010 Jan 22;9:3.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. "Antioxidants and Health: An Introduction." NCCIH Pub No.: D483. November 2013.

Pandey KB1, Rizvi SI. "Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease." Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009 Nov-Dec;2(5):270-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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