For the health conscious, “Antioxidant” is certainly a familiar word. It’s sort of like a magic word mentioned in health advertisements and in the media in general. So what are antioxidants and why do you need them? Antioxidants counteract the oxidative properties of free radicals that, unfortunately, are not avoidable. Free radicals come from pollution, pesticides, plastics, and even from our very own body, as it creates its own to destroy dangerous viruses and bacteria. If you give them free reign to your body, free radicals can spread like wildfire and inevitably cause dreadful diseases such as arthritis, blindness, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and all types of cancer. Aside from preventing illness, antioxidants keep you feeling and looking young!

Naturally, our body creates its own antioxidants to keep these free radicals in check, but as we face a larger number of environmental toxins than ever before, our bodies will certainly need some help to prevent from succumbing to these threats to our health and well being.

So where can we get these much-coveted antioxidants? Does it make sense to invest in supplements? Perhaps – but there is a more natural, liver-friendly, and certainly FDA-approved way of acquiring these antioxidants and this is by simply educating ourselves about the foods that we eat. Every fruit, vegetable, grain, and all other types of food have each of their own nutritive value, but some are better than most. Below is a list of the top ten foods with the highest antioxidant content according to the U.S. Department of agriculture. These foods are also some of the most commonly eaten in the United States making them very accessible to people from all walks of life.

Dried Small Red Bean

Serving size: half a cup

Antioxidant level: 13,727

Commonly called “Mexican red beans,” plus looking identical to red kidney beans excluding that fact that they are smaller in size, small red beans add a splash of color and vibrancy to our daily dishes such as chili and soups.

With a whopping total antioxidant capacity per serving size of 13,727 for every serving size of a mere half cup, this makes the small red bean the top notch provider of antioxidants. No wonder they’re considered a super food! Red beans also aid in lowering cholesterol levels and are relatively low in calories. Red beans make for a great power player in your diet as it is quite filling and satiating while being a reliable source of non meat protein.

Wild Blueberry

Serving size: one cup

Antioxidant level: 13,427

Wild Blueberries have a high concentration of a deep-blue pigment known as anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant. Having twice the antioxidant properties of regular blueberries, wild blueberries sure pack an anti-aging punch. The anthocyanins and flavonoids found in wild blueberries balance out the ever-present free radicals that that cause cell damage. They also protect against inflammation.

Dried Red Kidney Bean

Serving size: half a cup

Antioxidant level: 13,259

Yes, another bean on the list! Being third isn’t so bad when you’re chock full of benefits. Your heart is the first to thank you and your good dietary choices because red kidney bean has fiber and folate, also known as vitamin B9, both of which promote cardiovascular health. Fiber works by helping clear the digestive tract of impurities including cholesterol. Folate gets rid of homocysteine, a harmful substance that can cause severe artery damage. Red kidney beans also contain proanthocyanidins also known as condensed tannins, which has been demonstrated to improve insulin sensitivity and alleviate the signs and symptoms of chronic age-related disorders

Pinto Bean

Serving size: half a cup

Antioxidant level: 11,864

Like most beans, we all know they are good sources of fiber, which improves digestive and cardiovascular health by expelling cholesterol, but pinto beans are also an excellent source of molybdenum. Molybdenum prevents the growth of nitrosamines, which cause cancer. Pinto beans are also great sources of protein, folate, vitamin B1 and B6.

Cultivated Blueberry

Serving size: one cup

Antioxidant level: 9,091

Like its wild cousin, the cultivated blueberry, the type we see in grocery stores, possesses similar nutritional value. Though a little toned down, the cultivated blueberry still ranks high on our list at number 5. There are two types of cultivated blueberries, the Highbush Blueberries and the Rabbiteye Blueberries, both of which are native to the south.

Cranberry

Serving size: one cup

Antioxidant level: 8,983

Containing Vitamin C, a powerful natural antioxidant; and Vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant, makes cranberries one of the top contenders for foods packed with antioxidants. Cranberries are so vital that sailors would carry cranberries with them to avoid scurvy and to keep them healthy on the high seas. Cranberries also contain proanthocyanidins that help prevent urinary tract infections and promote oral health by preventing bacteria from binding to tooth enamel.

Artichoke

Serving size: one cup
Antioxidant level: 7,904
According to a United States Department of Agriculture study, artichokes have the most antioxidants out of all the vegetables. Chock full of antioxidants, have rutin, applauded for its anti inflammatory and circulatory benefits; and silymarin that improves liver health.

Blackberries

Serving size: one cup

Antioxidant level: 7,701

Like the blueberry, blackberries posses anthocyanins that give blackberries their dark color. Another antioxidant present in blackberries is ellagic acid, known for its anti carcinogenic and UV protective properties. As if that wasn’t enough cancer prevention in one tiny fruit, blackberries also have vitamin C and phenolic acids.

Prunes

Serving size: half a cup

Antioxidant level: 7,291

Not a fan of prunes? No surprise considering the prune’s unsexy relation to relieving constipation. Aside from making your digestive system happy, prunes also protect you from diseases like – you guessed it – cancer. This is through its high levels of phytonutrients like neochlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid. Prunes also reverse bone loss due to its phenoic and flavonoid compounds. Throw in some beta carotene and potassium in there, and you’ve got one lean, mean, bone loss-reducing and circulation-improving machine.

Raspberry

Serving size: one cup

Antioxidant level: 6,085

Like most other antioxidant rich foods higher up this list, raspberries have vitamin C that in generally known to boost the body’s general immune defenses. Like the other berries listed above, raspberries also have anthocyanins and phenols in them that help neutralize free radicals and thus preventing premature aging. Another thing raspberries have in common with some of the higher-ranking foods we have on this list is the presence of ellagic acid in them. The ellagic acid works as an anti carcinogenic agent by destroying cancer growths. This process is called apoptosis, which is triggered by the acids present in raspberries. Raspberries also improve eye health and prevent loss of vision due to cataracts and macular degeneration. Lastly, its combination of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and tannins help prevent inflammation, improve arthritis, and boost the body’s healing process.

While having these top ten foods in mind, it’s good to know that we have more antioxidant options out there that are also easily accessible such as tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, teas, and many more. The recommended consumption of 5 to 9 servings daily is perhaps the best habit your body will thank you for today and for the years to come. Keep in mind that while purchasing these foods, make sure that they are completely organic as the food’s quality and nutritional value may be compromised otherwise. This is because of the use of pesticide and the decline in the amount of minerals present in the soil. It’s helpful to remember that there’s a trend of antioxidant rich foods that are mostly berries and beans. It would help to incorporate these foods into our daily meals as much as we possibly can to meet our body’s needs. Instead of snacking on foods high on salt and fat, try snacking on some berries and even some prunes! Try not only eating your berries, but make them into a smoothie as well! Try making a wrap including some of the beans mentioned here or maybe an omelet. Just be creative! There are tons of deserts and snacks that you can revamp into healthier versions to cater to your antioxidant needs.

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