Antioxidant Rich Foods

I have a handout of the top 20 antioxidant rich foods at work and have been meaning to post about it. The list was put together by nutritionists with the USDA who examined the antioxidant levels of more than 100 different fruits, vegetables, spices, cereal and more. The information was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2004 (goes to show how long I’ve been procrastinating this post).

While a lot of people will pay a fortune for the new “fad” food or “miracle berry” a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans will give you the antioxidant your bodies craving.  The best news is you don’t have to spend $40-120 for those “fancy” juices to get your antioxidants, just head to the supermarket. What else makes me happy is that four different beans made the list, a nut and a ton of delicious fruits that I love! So, what should you eat? The answer, a balance of the foods listed below and other plant base nutrient rich foods. While this list ranks foods by antioxidant content per serving it doesn’t directly correlate to each foods overall health benefits so use it as a guide but don’t limit yourself to it. So many other vegetables like kale, spinach, tomatoes and bell peppers, just to name a few, are loaded with nutrients too even though they don’t show up below.

As for the 2004 list cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries were ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables and pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category. As for spices: ground cloves, cinnamon, and oregano were the top three.

Top 20 Antioxidant Rich Foods According to the USDA (2004)

20. Gala apples -1
19. Plums – 1
18. Black beans (dried) – 1/2 cup
17. Russet potatoes (cooked) – 1
16. Black plums – 1
15. Sweet cherries – 1 cup
14. Pecans -1 ounce
13. Granny Smith apples – 1
12. Red delicious apples – 1
11. Strawberries – 1 cup
10. Raspberries – 1 cup
9. Prunes – 1/2 cup
8. Blackberries – 1 cup
7. Artichokes (cooked) – 1 cup hearts
6. Cranberries- 1 cup
5. Blueberries (cultivated)- 1 cup
4. Pinto beans- 1/2 cup
3. Red kidney beans – 1/2 cup
2. Blueberries (wild)- 1 cup
1. Small red beans (dried)- 1/2 cup

Glad to see the list but curious to know more about what antioxidants do for our body? Read on – I tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Antioxidants are substances that protect against oxidative damage to our cells caused by free radicals. First, it’s important to know that free radical damage is impossible to avoid. It can come from inside our bodies (stress, etc…) and outside our bodies (pollution, etc…). What we want to do is protect against what the free radicals do in excess in our bodies. Free radicals are unstable cells since they are missing an electron. They desperately want to be stable so they go around our body taking electrons away from healthy cells, which, in turn causes a chain reaction of more unstable free radical cell development. Luckily, in come antioxidants which act as a hero since they have extra electrons. They graciously give up an electron to the free radical cells in order to make them balanced and stable thus decreasing free radicals in our body which in turn decreases all sorts of damage to our bodies.

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