Move over blueberries, pomegranates, and Merlot! There’s a new set of superfoods to try
Antioxidants are one of the most popular nutrition buzzwords. And for good reasons: They fight signs of aging, inflammation, and they can even help with weight loss. But when it comes to antioxidants, certain foods—blueberries, pomegranates, and spices like cinnamon and turmeric—get all the glory. It’s time for the unsung heroes in your diet to get the acclaim they deserve. Read on for the top 12 underappreciated antioxidant powerhouses.
While pistachios are best known for their healthy fats, they also contain a class of antioxidants call flavonoids that have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
You know what else is great about pistachios? You get to eat twice as many per ounce than any other nut. Enjoy them as a healthy snack or try them on your chicken.
Mushrooms are a great low-calorie food (only 15 calories per cup) that also contain Vitamin D. Even though they’re not deep red, purple, or blue (the colors we often associate with antioxidant-rich foods), mushrooms contain high levels of a unique antioxidant called ergothioneine. Ergothioneine is a powerful antioxidant that some scientists say may be used to treat cancer and AIDs in the future. Ergothioneine is also the reason why mushroom extract is used in many skincare products.
Choose oyster mushrooms: They contain the highest levels of ergothioneine. This simple recipe for grilled oyster mushrooms is the perfect compliment to steak.
A cup of Joe in the morning delivers more than a shot of caffeine—it’s packed with antioxidants too. Coffee contains an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid, which may be responsible for its ability to prevent the oxidation of your bad cholesterol (oxidation makes your bad cholesterol worse).
Remember that coffee itself is calorie free, and it only starts to negatively impact your health and waistline when you add sweetened syrups, sugar, and gobs of whipped cream.
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are best known for their high levels of the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). One tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains more than 6 grams of ALA, while 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds have 3 grams.
Nutritionally speaking, flax is much more than just a dose of ALA. It also contain antioxidants called lignans. Two tablespoons of flaxseed meal contains up to 300 mg of lignans while 1 tablespoon of the oil has 30 mg. Research shows that lignans help fight inflammation by lowering C-reactive protein (a blood marker of general inflammation), and they might also help lower cholesterol levels.
When you think of antioxidants, you probably don’t picture grains. The processing and refinement of grains strips them of their nutritional merit, but if you eat grains in their unrefined form, you’re in for an added health punch. Barley contains the antioxidant ferulic acid (if you can get your hands on black barley that’s even better).
Ferulic acid was shown in animals to decrease the negative effects on the brain following a stroke. Barley is a great replacement for rice or quinoa in your diet. This easy barley salad packs an added protein punch with the addition of hazelnuts.
Green tea gets all the PR buzz, but black tea packs an equal health punch in its own way. Although green tea contains high levels of EGCG, an antioxidant that when combined with caffeine can help you lose weight, black tea contains high levels of the antioxidant gallic acid, which may help fight cancer by preventing its spread from one organ to another.
Black tea requires a slightly different preparation than green tea. For the perfect black tea brew, bring the water to a full boil and then steep for three to five minutes.
Acai berries, red wine, and pomegranates are all known for their high levels of the antioxidants called anthocyanins. That is what gives these foods their deep red color. So maybe it’s not so surprising that red and purple cabbage is another great source of the same powerful antioxidant.
Anthocyanins can help improve the health and youthfulness of your blood vessels, warding off heart disease. And if your dose of anthocyanins comes from cabbage, you’ll get the added benefit of glucosinolates, another antioxidant that may help cells fight against cancer.
One cup of red cabbage contains less than 30 calories and has 2 grams of stay-full fiber. Try this quick and easy recipe for fennel and red cabbage slaw that’s free of any thick and calorie-dense dressing.
Several spices and herbs are well known for their high antioxidant content. Cinnamon contains antioxidants that help control blood sugar, while turmeric’s brand of antioxidants fight inflammation.
Rosemary is no different—it just flies under the radar. Research suggest that an antioxidant in rosemary called carnosol may play a role in warding off Alzheimer’s disease while also acting as the driving nutrient behind rosemary oil’s effects on improving memory.
To make a simple, brain-boosting marinade, soak chicken in three tablespoons of fresh chopped rosemary, ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. It makes for one unforgettable meal.
When eggs make headlines, it usually has to do with their cholesterol content, not their antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants found in the yolk of eggs (another reason to eat the whole egg) that may help prevent age-related vision problems. At only 70 calories and 6 grams of protein a piece, you can easily account for whole eggs in your healthy diet.
Check out these 20 quick and easy ways to cook eggs to get your daily dose of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Avocados are known for their high levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (1/2 an avocado contains 8 grams). But here’s an insider tip: Foods that are high in unsaturated fats are usually high in antioxidants too. Mother Nature puts the antioxidants there to prevent the fats from oxidizing. Avocados are no exception, as they contain a group of antioxidants called polyphenols.
For a double dose of antioxidants, enjoy your guacamole with salsa. Research shows this combination leads to a greater absorption of carotenoids (vitamin A-like antioxidants) from the tomatoes in salsa.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the anti-cancer effects of broccoli. The driving force behind broccoli’s anti-cancer mechanisms comes from a group of antioxidants called isothiocyanates. Broccoli contains two of the most potent isothiocyanates – sulforaphane and erucin. Broccoli is also low calorie (30 calories per cup) and fibrous (2.5 grams per cup), which makes it a filling weight loss food.
Here is a simple broccoli salad recipe that you can easily make in bulk and eat throughout the week.
Another unlikely antioxidant powerhouse, artichokes contain antioxidants that might help prevent cancer. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that artichokes scored higher than raspberries, strawberries, and cherries in total antioxidant capacity per serving. One cup of cooked artichoke hearts delivers 7 grams of fiber for less than 50 calories.