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The Benefits of Antioxidant-Rich Foods (Plus, 8 Natural Antioxidants You Need to Try)

Antioxidant is a popular term of the moment. When a new superfood becomes trendy, you probably hear that it’s a natural antioxidant.

But what are antioxidants? How do they keep you healthy, and how can you incorporate more of them into your diet?

For more information about antioxidants or to upgrade your diet, talk to one of UPMC’s registered dietitians.

What Are Antioxidants?

In short, antioxidants are nutrient-filled substances. The best natural antioxidants can be found in foods available at most local grocery stores. In fact, you probably eat many antioxidant-rich foods already.

Antioxidants protect your body against the effects of free radicals, which are produced when your body breaks down food or ingests something unhealthy, like tobacco smoke or radiation. You can’t avoid free radicals, as they’re natural byproducts of just living in the world. Many researchers believe, however, that free radicals play a roll in cellular and genetic damage, potentially leading to heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses — so it’s in your best interest to help your body break them down!

What Are the Best Natural Antioxidants to Consume?

There are hundreds of different substances that act as antioxidants for the body. Some that you may have heard of include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese.

The easiest way to get more antioxidants into your body is by adding them to your diet. Antioxidants are generally contained in fruits and vegetables, as well as in teas, red wine, and dark chocolate. During your next trip to the grocery store, look for these antioxidant-rich foods:

  1. Legumes. Look for red kidney beans or black beans, and add them to anything from salsa to soup.
  2. Leafy greens. Spinach is nutrient-rich and delicious. Turn it into a salad, or sauté it and add it to pasta. Broccoli and cabbage also are good antioxidant-rich food options.
  3. Berries. Choose blueberries, well known for their antioxidant properties, as a snack. Raspberries and blackberries are also great options.
  4. Nightshade Vegetables. Eggplant and tomatoes, especially, help your body detox. Roast them, or add them to your favorite pasta dish. Eggplant dip makes a great snack or party appetizer.
  5. Apples. During the fall months, look to apples to pack a nutrient-rich punch. Snack on them with a side of nut butter, or roast them with brown sugar for an after-dinner treat.
  6. Dark Chocolate. Nibble on dark chocolate to curb sugar cravings and get some antioxidant-rich nutrition on the side.
  7. Tea. Green and black teas bring a healthy dose of antioxidant-rich substance to the table.
  8. Antioxidant Supplements. You can purchase supplements that contain intensified doses of antioxidants. Consult with your doctor or a nutritionist before picking one.

Antioxidants are an important part of a healthy diet. They help the body detox, prevent damage done by free radical substances, and keep you healthy and strong. Incorporating more antioxidants into your diet doesn’t have to be a chore; you just have to know where to look.

For more information about antioxidants or to upgrade your diet, talk to one of UPMC’s registered dietitians.