If you haven’t heard of antioxidants and all their benefits you ought to go back to your cave and hide!
Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation in the body. They serve one and only one primary function. They counteract the damaging oxidizing agents that enter the body through various means.
Which Foods Have Antioxidants?
There are dozens of foods out there loaded with antioxidants waiting to fight the free radicals in your body. These include herbs, spices, fruits, berries, vegetables, and greens. Some of the antioxidants in these foods are beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin C, lutein, and flavonoids.
Some of the benefits of consuming antioxidants include:
- Slows down aging
- Better skin, hair, teeth, joints, heart, and brain
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Less Risk of Vision Loss
- Boost Immunity
Antioxidants are absolutely necessary for this day and age when we face conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia. All of these ailments have been correlated with oxidative stress caused due to free radicals. The presence of free radicals leads to oxidation which results in chain reactions that damage cells.
Environmental Factors and Free Radical Growth
A number of environmental factors contribute to the formation of free radicals.
- Zero Exposure to Sunlight
- Poor Diet and Gut Health
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
- Long-Term Use or Side Effects of Pharmaceutical Medications
- Chemicals in Food, Air, Water
- High Amounts of Stress
As you can see, there are a lot of free radical triggers out there. That’s why we need to consume the best foods for gut health and boost our antioxidant levels. To determine which foods in a healthy gut diet plan will cause antioxidant levels to rise, you need to turn to the ORAC score.
Antioxidants and the ORAC Score
Antioxidants are measured based on an ORAC score. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. A substance is rated based on its ability to neutralize damage causing oxygen free radicals. Usually, this is based on 100 grams of each food substance or herb.
There is no recommended quantity of antioxidants one needs to consume each day. But the more one consumes, the better it is to fight off the effects of free radicals.
FOODS WITH HIGH ORAC SCORES
Some foods with extremely high ORAC scores are superfoods such as Goji Berries, Wild blueberries, Dark Chocolate, Pecan Nuts, Artichokes, Elderberries, Kidney Beans, Cranberries, Blackberries, and Cilantro. Some herbs and spices have super high ORAC scores. They include cloves, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cocoa, cumin, parsley, basil, ginger, and thyme. Garlic, cayenne pepper, and green tea are said to have high ORAC scores too.
But ORAC scores are based on weight, and at times it is not practical to eat these foods in such high quantities. There are other foods which can be eaten in large quantities on a regular basis and have a fairly high ORAC score. Eating three to four servings of these is much more plausible. No doubt these would play a significant role in changing the ball game with the free radicals.
Top 10 Best Foods for Gut Health with Antioxidants
Blackberries are loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids. Studies show that besides being great sources of antioxidants, these berries can help in the dilation of blood vessels. They are a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Manganese. One cup of blackberries has 7 grams of fiber which is about a third of the recommended intake.
Pecan nuts are known to be a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. They provide a whole array of phytochemicals that contribute to their health benefits. These include anti-inflammatory, antiviral and cholesterol reducing properties.
One cup of Pecan nuts contains more than 100% of the daily needed amount of healthy fats and more than 200% of the needed manganese. These nuts are also a great source of Thiamin which is part of Vitamin B complex. These nuts are nothing short of boasting with properties that help defy your age and keep your skin firm.
Cranberries are packed with Vitamin C, a well known antioxidant. One cup of cranberries has enough Vitamin C to satisfy a quarter of the daily recommended dose. Cranberries have a unique set of antioxidants known as proanthocyanidins (PACs). These are not usually found in other fruits and berries. Cranberries are known to cure and lower the risk of urinary tract infections. Cranberries are now being seen as a possible alternative to treatment with antibiotics. Besides, cranberries are packed with phenolic bioactive compounds that help you ace the health game.
Walnuts are packed with minerals, healthy fatty acids, and essential amino acids. One cup of walnuts contains 40 – 60% of the daily recommended protein. Walnuts have high quantities of alpha-linolenic acid compared to other nuts. Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fruits such as strawberries. ALA is known to play a role in preventing various neurological disorders. It is known to protect the brain from strokes and plays a significant role in learning & memory.
Strawberries are a rich source of Vitamin C, B6, and various other antioxidants. They are known to improve the health of one’s skin and heart respectively. Research shows that strawberries are a significant source of antioxidant polyphenols. These play a crucial role in the prevention of conditions related to obesity. That includes metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Besides that strawberries are also known to naturally whiten your teeth!
Artichokes have the highest content of antioxidants amongst all known vegetables. They are loaded with Vitamin C, folic acid, and flavones amongst others. Besides, they are also a great source of magnesium. Artichokes are known to play a role in improving heart and liver health over long periods of consumption. Just 100 grams of cooked artichokes contain more than 30% of the recommended daily fiber intake. This high fiber intake makes artichokes one of the best prebiotics for probiotics to flourish. It is highly recommended in the diet portion of the Thryve Gut Health Program.
Blueberries are packed with anthocyanins which are responsible for their blue hues. These anthocyanins along with other phenolic compounds help fight against and prevent inflammations. Regular consumption is known to protect the body against heart disease and reduce the risk of various forms of cancer.
Well, do you really need more reasons to gorge on chocolate? Here is another! Antioxidants present in dark chocolate are known to help reduce blood pressure and the risk of diabetes. There is only one thing you must watch out for. Make sure to skip the processed, sugar-rich bars and stick to the darker, sugar-free versions. This is only because sugar and other dietary additives tend to drop down on the super awesome antioxidant scores.
The deep red hues of cherries are attributed to high quantities of anthocyanins. These pigments play an important role in reducing inflammations and lowering cholesterol. A study showed that antioxidants extracted from cherries can help cure type 2 diabetes. Researchers are now exploring the possibility of an alternative to artificial sugar. All with the help of cherry-based sweeteners. Canned tart cherries/ sour cherries, and the dried sweet cherries are both known to be equally good. Tart cherries are also a rich source of melatonin which plays a role in regulating sleep cycles.
Raspberries are another go-to food if you are looking at antioxidants. These bioactive compounds in these berries are known to play a significant role in preventing various forms of cancer. They are a rich source of Vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber. Besides the polyphenol antioxidants in these berries also help prevent cardiac-related ailments.
There is still an ongoing debate about what dose of antioxidants each of us requires, but, either way, consuming these super awesome foods has no downfall. The only thing that we need to keep in mind is that we opt for antioxidants from natural sources. These antioxidants are waiting to take the gear up to the top.
Here is an infographic to give you a brief view of the discussion we’ve had above
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thyrve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.