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Last Updated on August 29, 2019

13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

We hear a lot about antioxidants. As far as popular health-related topics go, “antioxidant foods” is up there with “gluten,” “organic,” and “non-GMO.” If you’ve ever wondered what antioxidants actually are, though, you’re not alone. Here is the basic rundown:

Antioxidants are chemical compounds often found naturally in food, which, once consumed, negate the effects of free radicals in the human body. This is an important process because wherever an excess of free radicals accumulates, it can damage your DNA — which in turn can contribute to cancer growth.

The result of free radical accumulation is called “oxidative stress,” and is associated with a number of other diseases as well, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.[1] Hence, consuming healthy levels of antioxidant foods is one way of protecting against cancer and other diseases.

“Can’t I just avoid free radicals?” you might ask. Unfortunately, you really can’t. Free radicals are everywhere, including in many foods, medicines, and the environment itself. They’re in the air we breathe and the water we drink, not to mention being a natural byproduct of biological processes in the body.

So what do you do? Since there are a lot of risk factors for disease we can’t control (such as aging and genetics), it seems logical to take advantage of those we can. One easy way is to maintain a healthy diet full of antioxidants.

You want to avoid heavily processed foods advertised as containing high levels of antioxidants, since this usually means synthetic antioxidants have been added to the food. Studies indicate that these man-made compounds are not only less protective, but may in fact be damaging to human health.[2]

Bottom line: you want the majority of your antioxidants to come from whole, natural foods, such as these:

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1. Pecans

Native to Mexico and some southern U.S. states, the famous nut behind “pecan pie” is quite healthy (even if the pie is not). Pecans contain fiber, protein, flavonoids, vitamins, and unsaturated fats. They wouldn’t top this list if they weren’t also a fantastic source of antioxidant compounds.

Control yourself, though, because pecans are also high in calories — a handful goes a long way.

2. Blueberries

Blueberries may contain the highest amount of antioxidants among all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables, making them the poster-child for antioxidative benefits.[3]

While still inconclusive, research indicates that the particular antioxidants in blueberries work to delay effects of aging on the brain (in other words, preventing or delaying cognitive decline).[4]

Add in the fact that they’re nutritious in many other ways, not to mention delicious, and you’ve got an antioxidant that’s equally at home on the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table.

3. Strawberries

Strawberries are a great source of vitamin C, manganese, folate (vitamin B9), and potassium. They’re also naturally rich in antioxidants that help with both heart health and blood sugar control.

Despite their sweetness, strawberries are full of water, making them a low-carb choice. Plus eating them can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation.[5]

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4. Artichokes

Humans have revered artichokes for their health benefits and medicinal properties for centuries. Contemporary research backs up our ancestors’ appreciation of this edible blossom of a thistle plant.[6]

Low in fat, packed with fiber, full of vitamins, minerals, and of course, antioxidants, an artichoke-a-day could indeed keep the doctor away.

5. Raspberries

If you think there’s a “berry” noticeable theme to this list, you’re right. In addition to blueberries and strawberries, the raspberry is well-known for its antioxidative properties. Like blueberries, raspberries are also jammed full of compounds called anthocyanins, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

Raspberries are so powerful that one study of test-tube cancers showed that the antioxidants found in them managed to kill 90 percent of colon, breast, and stomach cancers.[7] Several other studies have linked the antioxidants and other components in raspberries to lower risks of cancer and heart disease.

6. Kale

Anything from the cruciferous vegetable family is a healthy choice, and kale is no exception. It’s one of the most nutritious green vegetables there is, providing vitamins A, C, and K, as well as loads of calcium and numerous antioxidant compounds.[8]

Red varieties of kale, such as redbor and Russian kale, pack an extra punch thanks to the same anthocyanins found in blueberries and raspberries. These compounds give the varieties (and berries) their color, and often indicate that they have twice the amount of antioxidants as green kale.

7. Spinach

Spinach leaves are one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables on the planet. Spinach may not give you Popeye-sized muscles, but it certainly provides you with a boatload of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help with immune support, serve as brain boosters, and provide defense against cancer and other chronic illnesses.

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8. Lemons

Most of us don’t consume raw lemons on a regular basis, but if you were to glance at the famous yellow citrus’s nutritional profile, you might start to think we should.

Lemons are high in vitamin C, folate (B9), potassium, flavonoids and antioxidants. This makes them not only great for relieving oxidative stress, but also for supporting heart, immune, and reproductive health.[9]

9. Bananas

Reading through this list, you may have gathered that fruits and vegetables tend to be excellent sources of dietary antioxidants. Luckily for us on-the-go eaters, bananas are no exception. Catechins and dopamine are two components in bananas that provide a great deal of antioxidative benefits, including lowered risks of heart disease and lowered cognitive degeneration.[10]

10. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a great source of nutrition for the simple reason that it’s likely already sitting on a shelf in your pantry. In addition to its large store of antioxidants, cinnamon is known to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, making it an all around super-spice.

11. Oregano

Refusing to let cinnamon dominate the anti-oxidative spice category, oregano (and oregano oil) has been found to contain a high number of antioxidant compounds. It’s also got plenty of vitamin K, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

The great thing about oregano (aside from its health benefits) is that it’s readily available and makes a delicious addition to dishes of all kinds, from pizzas and salads to chili, soup, or stew.

12. Russet Potatoes

“A potato?” you ask. Yes, Russet potatoes rank among the highest antioxidant providers in the vegetable category.[11]. They’re starchy, which may downgrade them as a choice for anyone worried about blood sugar levels.

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All in all, these root veggies are a great source of not only antioxidants, but also iron, potassium, and vitamins C and B6.

13. Dark Chocolate

This is a classic example of saving the best for last. Depending on what kind of chocolate you’re talking about (and who’s measuring), dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than both blueberries and raspberries. As a rule of thumb, the higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants are in the chocolate.

Fiber, iron, potassium, manganese, and copper are just a few more of the many healthy nutrients that dark chocolate provides.[12]

Bottom Line

Despite the deliciousness of the foods on this list, the unfortunate truth is that no amount of antioxidants in your diet can alter your genetic predisposition for disease, stop you from aging,[13] or undo the effects of a poor overall diet and lifestyle.

What will do the trick is a balanced diet full of whole foods (raw or cooked) like vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats, along with a good exercise regimen and healthy amount of sleep.

Add in extra antioxidants on top of that, and you’re well on your way to being a specimen of perfect health.

Featured photo credit: Cecilia Par via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. David Minkoff

Health Expert | CEO BodyHealth | Co-Owner and Medical Director at Lifeworks Wellness Center | Author

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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