So-called superfoods come in many shapes and sizes, and boast all manner of health benefits, but if there is one thing common to every foodstuff that can claim nutritional superpowers, it’s that it contains antioxidants.

Antioxidants are firmly established as essential to good health, but most people will readily admit they have little idea about what they actually are or do. To find out why we need antioxidants and which foods to eat to get the biggest effect, we enlisted registered dietitian Susan Short of the British Dietetic Association.

Let’s start with the basics: what are antioxidants and why should we eat them?

“Antioxidants are substances found naturally in food,” says Short. “They are important because they protect your body’s cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals that can cause diseases such as heart disease and cancers. Antioxidants can also help to protect and repair our skin from pollutants.”

It’s also important to know that there are many different kinds of antioxidants, and they’re found in a variety of foods.

“Some antioxidants are vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium,” explains Short. “Others are phytochemicals, found naturally in plants, that can act as antioxidants and are called flavonoids, polyphenols and carotenoids.”

Being healthy inside and out sounds good to us, so what foods do we need to eat to ensure we’re getting enough antioxidants? Here’s a handy shopping list from Short.

Vitamin C is found in:

  • Guava
  • Peppers (red, yellow and green)
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Papaya
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes

Vitamin E is found in:

  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Vegetable oils
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Peanuts (including peanut butter)
  • Sweet potato
  • Avocado

Selenium is found in:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Grain products
  • Wheat germ and wheat bran in wholegrain products
  • Beans
  • Oats

Carotenoids are found in:

  • Kale
  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrots
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Pumpkin and other squashes
  • Guava
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit

Flavonoids are found in:

  • Berries (especially dark-coloured berries)
  • Cherries
  • Red grapes
  • Onions
  • Apples
  • Cocoa
  • Tea, especially green tea

Polyphenols are found in:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dark chocolate
  • Blueberries
  • Olives
  • Hazelnuts
  • Plums

It’s clear there are lots of options if you want to have an antioxidant-rich diet. With that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that unless you’re recommended supplements by a medical professional you don’t need to look beyond your diet for antioxidants.

“The best way to get antioxidants is from food,” says Short. “If you have a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains then you should be taking in enough. Supplements often have higher amounts than you need and may even be harmful.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here