High Antioxidant Foods

Finding Foods High in Antioxidants at Farmers Markets and CSAs

Fruits at a market standWant to eat foods that will boost your health? Not only should you be ditching the processed foods for the excess packaging waste they create, but also for numerous health reasons. A healthier choice would be to cook with foods high in antioxidants found in your local region. 

One metric for measuring how healthy any given whole food really is is to identify those foods that are high in antioxidants. Including things like vitamin A (retinol synthesized from beta carotene), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (tocotrienol and tocopherol), and many other lesser-known nutrients. Antioxidants help to eliminate the oxygen free radicals that can either be ingested or form in the body naturally from stress and sickness. Free radicals are those atoms that can cause serious oxidative damage in the body, and can be one of the causes of pre-mature aging, cardiovascular diseases, and much more. 

 

Foods high in antioxidants

The US Department of Agriculture puts out a report that reports on the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) tests they perform on foods. This test helps to identify those foods, which may do the best job of increasing the level of antioxidants in your blood. In order of ORAC values, here are the top antioxidant rich foods, most of which should be available from your farmer’s market or community supported agriculture association (CSA):

  • Small red beans
  • Wild blueberries
  • Red kidney beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Blueberries (cultivated)
  • Cranberries
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Blackberries
  • Prunes
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Red delicious apples
  • Granny Smith apples
  • Pecans
  • Sweet cherries
  • Black plums
  • Russet potatoes
  • Black beans
  • Plums
  • Gala apples

But straight ORAC values aren’t the only story. Not all antioxidant-rich foods are readily available to the body, so while some have high values they may not be as useful for human consumption and for fighting off disease. For that, let’s turn to the expert recommendations of Dr. Weil who has a list of healthy foods (all of which are likely available through your local CSA or famer’s market) based on a variety of factors:

  • Green vegetables: This group includes things like spinach, collard greens, and kale that are important for lutein and zeaxanthin content.
  • Cruciferous vegetables: In this category we have broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and turnips, all rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients.
  • Orange/yellow fruits and veggies: Apricots, carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes (another super food) that are high in carotenoids.
  • Red pigmented fruits: High in lycopene, this group includes papaya, pink grapefruit, tomatoes, and watermelon.
  • Blue/purple fruits and veggies: The purple comes from anthocyanins. Bet you can guess what’s in this group: blueberries, beets, purple grapes, plums, and red cabbage.

So head out to your favorite local food purveyor and stock up on fruits and veggies that are full of antioxidants to maintain a strong and healthy diet. 






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