You can tell whether a food is rich in antioxidants by slicing it open, exposing it to air (oxygen), and then seeing what happens. If it turns brown, it’s oxidizing. Two of our most popular fruits, apples and bananas, for example, turn brown quickly, which means there aren’t a lot of antioxidants inside them. (Most of the antioxidants in apples are in the peels.) Cut open a mango and what happens? Nothing, because it’s rich with antioxidants. How do you keep fruit salad from turning brown? Add lemon juice, which contains the antioxidant vitamin C. Antioxidants can keep your food from oxidizing, and they may do the same inside your body.
In scientific circles, the phenomenon by which oxygen molecules grab stray electrons and go crazy is called oxidant (or oxidative) stress, and the resulting cellular damage may contribute to the aging process. Aging and disease have been thought of as the oxidation of the body. Those brown age spots on the back of your hands? They’re just oxidized fat under the skin. Oxidant stress is thought to be why we all get wrinkles, why we lose some of our memory, and why our organ systems break down as we get older. Eating foods containing lots of antioxidants may slow down this oxidant process.
One of the diseases antioxidant-rich foods may help prevent is stroke. Swedish researchers followed more than 30,000 older women over a period of a dozen years and found that those who ate the most antioxidant-rich foods had the lowest stroke risk. Similar findings were reported in a younger cohort of men and women in Italy.
What are the most antioxidant-rich foods? Researchers spanning the globe published a database of the antioxidant power of more than 3,000 foods, beverages, herbs, spices, and supplements. On average, plant foods contain 64 times more antioxidants than animal foods. As the researchers put it, “[A]ntioxidant rich foods originate from the plant kingdom while meat, fish and other foods from the animal kingdom are low in antioxidants….”
Antioxidant-rich diets appear to protect against stroke and may also help decrease artery stiffness, prevent blood clots from forming, and lower blood pressure and inflammation. High-antioxidant fruits and vegetables, such as berries and greens, have been found to douse systemic inflammation significantly better than the same number of servings of more common low-antioxidant fruits and veggies, such as bananas and lettuce.
The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.
Image Credit: Amanda Rae. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Antioxidants
All Videos for Antioxidants
Studies on Millet Nutrition: Is It a Healthy Grain?
Millet isn’t the name of a specific grain, but a generic term that applies to a number of totally different plants. Which is the most healthful?
The Effects of Processed Meat on Lung Function
If the nitrites in foods like ham and bacon cause lung damage, what about “uncured” meat with “no nitrites added”?
Plant-Based Protein: Are Pea and Soy Protein Isolates Harmful?
What are the different impacts of plant protein versus animal protein, and do the benefits of plant proteins translate to plant protein isolates?
Is Sorghum a Healthy Grain?
How does sorghum compare with other grains in terms of protein, antioxidants, and micronutrients? And the benefits of red sorghum compared to black and white varieties.
Optimizing Water Intake to Lose Weight
Two cups of cold water on an empty stomach a few times a day for weight loss.
How to Lower Lp(a) with Diet
What to eat and what to avoid to lower the cardiovascular disease risk factor lipoprotein(a).
Benefits of Quinoa for Lowering Triglycerides
How do the nutrition and health effects of quinoa compare to whole grains?
Benefits of Grapes for Brain Health
Grape juice and whole grapes are put to the test for brain function, including cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s.
Does Pressure Cooking Preserve Nutrients?
How Dr. Greger pressure steams his greens.
Berries for Inflammation & Osteoarthritis Treatment
Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials on berries and the first clinical study on the effects of berries on arthritis.
How to Cook Greens
Dark green leafy vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. What’s the best way to prepare them?
Do the Health Benefits of Coffee Apply to Everyone?
Genetic differences in caffeine metabolism may explain the Jekyll and Hyde effects of coffee.