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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 11, 2021

11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

Affordable, relaxing, and healthy, oil diffusers are gaining popularity with people everywhere due to their extensive benefits. Oil diffusers work through the simple process of oil diffusion, which uses heat to turn oil into a vapor that is then spread around a living space. Diffused oil can have several relaxation and health-related benefits, including safe scent-dispersion, mosquito and mold defense, stress relief, and more!

Read on for 11 hidden benefits of using oil diffusers.

1. Safe Scents That Make Sense

Unlike candles or air fresheners, oil diffusers release cleansing molecules into your air that work to purify it, not overload it with unhealthy chemicals. Electronic diffusers also do not pose the fire risk that candles do. Plus, they contain the added feature of interchangeability, which means you change oil types for different scents and health benefits.

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2. Stress Relief

Several lab studies have confirmed that diffusing essential oils like lavender have been shown to reduce stress and help relieve anxiety in medical patients. Preliminary studies have also shown that oil diffusers can help alleviate symptoms of depression.

3. Improved Sleep

Diffused oil has relaxing properties that can help people of all ages fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly. Electronic diffusers not only have the option to mix and match different oil blends (Try a lavender, Bulgarian rose, and Roman chamomile blend to help with insomnia), they also run at a gentle hum that helps relax an agitated mind. Many also come with an auto shut-off feature to help conserve oils once you have fallen asleep.

4. Appetite Control

Much like gum, oil diffusers can help stimulate the senses in a way that works to curb appetite. New research has shown that diffused peppermint oil can help curb appetite by inducing a satiety response within the body. Diffused peppermint oil has also been shown to increase energy.

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5. Bacteria and Mold Killing

When essential oils are diffused in the air, they break down free radicals that contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria. Eucalyptus, thyme, and tea tree oils are especially good for this purpose. Diffused oil is also highly effective when it comes to combating fungal yeast threats, as the oil help makes the air inhospitable for yeasts such as mold. Pine and red thyme essential oils are best for combating mold.

6. Decongestion and Mucus Control

Ever tried Vick’s Vapo-Rub? Its decongesting powers come from active ingredients made from the eucalyptus tree. In principle, oil diffusers work the same way as Vapo-Rub, except they diffuse their decongesting vapor all around the room, not just on your chest or neck. Oil diffusers have been known to cure pneumonia in lab mice.

7. Mosquito Repellant

Nobody likes mosquitoes — but when the trade-off means using repellants full of DEET, a toxic chemical that can be especially harmful to children, mosquito control can often seem like a lose-lose. However, scientists have shown that oil diffusers can be used as a safe and highly effective mosquito repellant. Studies have shown that a diffused oil mixture containing clove essential oil and lemongrass essential oil repelled one type of Zika-carrying mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, at a rate of 100%.

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8. Pain Relief

While applying oils directly to areas of your body may be the most effective way to alleviate pain, diffusing essential oils can also be an effective means of pain relief. When we inhale healthy essential oils, they enter our blood stream and can help internally relieve persistent pain from headaches, overworked muscles, and sore joints.

9. The New Anti-Viral

Research into the anti-viral effects of oil diffusion is now just gaining steam. A recent study showed that star anise essential oil was proven in medical experiments to destroy the herpes simplex virus in contained areas at a rate of 99%. Another study showed the popular DoTerra oil blend OnGuard to have highly-effective influenza-combating powers.

10. Improved Cognitive Function

Diffusing essential oils has also been shown to improve cognitive function. Many essential oils have adaptogenic qualities, which can work twofold in soothing us when we’re stressed, and giving our bodies a pick-me-up when we’re feeling down or sluggish. By working to level out an imbalanced mood, diffused oils also help us to focus. There are also several essential oils which have been shown to help balance the body’s hormones. With prolonged use, these oils can work to repair the underlying causes responsible for hindering cognitive function.

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11. Money Saving

With ten clear benefits of oil diffusers already outlined, there is one more that should now be obvious: using an oil diffuser will help you to save money. As an anti-viral, bug repelling, and stress-relief solution rolled into one safe product, an oil diffuser used with the proper oils will save you money on products you might otherwise be buying to help cure those pesky headaches or get your kids to fall asleep on time. If you’re wondering just how affordable oil diffusers can be, check the buyer’s guide to the best oil diffusers — you’ll be sure to find one that fits your budget!

Featured photo credit: Jopeel Quimpo via unsplash.com

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