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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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