Antioxidants are essential for gut health because they keep free radicals at bay. While our body creates different types of antioxidants internally, our system needs a little extra help. Therefore, we can find many antioxidants in our food sources. However, not all antioxidants work the same, nor are they present within the same foods. So, it’s essential to know your types of antioxidants, and which foods in the Thryve Inside healthy gut diet plan have them.
Why Are Antioxidants Important?
Antioxidants are our body’s greatest defense against free radicals . Free radicals are loose compounds in the system that looks to pair with any molecule, electron, or ion for they can find. These unplanned reactions cause what science calls “oxidative stress.”
Oxidative stress destroys protein, DNA, and cells. If oxidative stress persists, it can become a leading cause of several long-term problems, including gastroenterology diseases and stomach cancer.
A free radical typically has a short life span. That’s because antioxidants stop them from causing oxidative stress on the system. However, the Standard American Diet (SAD) doesn’t supply enough antioxidant-rich foods to prevent this occurrence.
A recent article by Time Magazine looked at the lack of antioxidants in a typical American diet . They interviewed Jeffrey Blumberg of Tufts University. He is the Director of Antioxidants Research in their Nutrition Program.
Jeffrey Blumberg told the magazine,
“The average adult should be consuming 15 mg of vitamin E daily, but more than 90% of people fail to eat that amount, and most people only get about half the recommended dose from their diet.”– Jeffrey Blumberg
Vitamin C and Vitamin E are just two of thousands of antioxidants. Here are 20 types of antioxidants you should know about, and how to include them in your diet.
Categories of Types of Antioxidants
Optimal wellness hinges on consuming a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods. Rule of thumb, opt for foods of various colors. Chances are that specific antioxidant-rich minerals dictate the colors.
Before we get into the types of antioxidants you should get in your diet; we should point out that antioxidants are broken down into categories that can be rather complex.
We might get into these in a future article, but that’s another rabbit hole for another day.
So, we’re not going to get deeply into classifications. Instead, we’re just going to discuss types of antioxidants and where you can find them!
Types of Antioxidants
While there are thousands of antioxidants out there, you can still get enough to fight off free radicals through diet. All you need to do is followed a balanced healthy gut diet plan all week long, picking foods from each of the 20 types of antioxidants.
Allium Sulfur Compounds
These compounds are responsible for that tangy-yet-bitter taste and pungent aroma we love and hate in onions and garlic. Research indicates that these fragrant compounds help stop the growth of opportunistic bacteria. In fact, they went as far as to suggest allium leaves as an all-natural preservative .
Sources of allium sulfur compounds include:
If you have Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO), excessive intake of alliums may upset GI problems. Learn how to navigate these waters by reading up on having SIBO while following a vegan diet.
These are colorful antioxidants. You know a food is rich in anthocyanins if they have hues that range from dark red to vibrant purple to black.
Anthocyanins-rich foods include:
- Black Rice
These pigments are essential for strengthening gut-brain-axis. One study involving subjects with a spinal injury saw a 16.7% improvement in their blood-brain barrier with a treatment of anthocyanins .
This organic compound is the precursor to Vitamin A. Therefore, beta-carotene is helpful in everything from skincare to eye health.
Foods rich in beta-carotene include:
- Sweet Potatoes
Getting more beta-carotene in your diet will also help boost your immune system. So, eating these types of antioxidants will have you looking good and feeling great.
These are the antioxidants that everyone likes to drink. You can find catechins in many plant-based beverages.
Some catechin-rich food choices include:
- Green Tea
The most effective way to get catechins is through green tea. By heating up the leaves, it releases tannic juice from catechins . These juices help with digestion. That’s why we suggest drinking tea for Leaky Gut Syndrome and other GI problems.
Copper is essential for the body because it helps your system produce red blood cells. These are the pawns in our system that clear our debris such as dead cells and free radicals. Thanks to copper, we have the blood cells needed to keep our heart and skin healthy and strong.
Foods rich in copper include:
- Dark Chocolate
- Shitake Mushrooms
While using copper mugs may seem like a good solution, you might want to be careful of what you put in the cup. Research shows that high pH beverages, such as some alcoholic drinks, can cause copper to leach into the liquid . This reaction may cause food poisoning.
Cryptoxanthins aren’t as scary as the name sounds. That is, unless you are free radicals! These types of antioxidants have shown great promise in helping with nutrient absorption and metabolism . Therefore, your body is primed to take on invaders.
You can get a hefty dose of cryptoxanthins in:
- Mandarin Oranges
- Red Bell Peppers
- Egg Yolk
As you may have noticed, many of these foods fall within the red-orange hues. You can thank cryptoxanthins for that pretty pigmentation.
These are the largest groups of phytonutrients. There are at least 6,000 different flavonoids known to humankind. Other types of antioxidants on this list may classify as a flavonoid, such as anthocyanins and isoflavonoids. However, we promised not to go down that rabbit hole today!
You can receive a wide range of flavonoids in:
- Brussels Sprouts
You want to be sure to get plenty of flavonoids in your diet. Research indicates they have strong neuroprotective abilities. One study indicated those who consumed flavonoids had a 50% lesser chance of developing dementia .
This antioxidant is widely found in nature. It can even be created by bacteria. Therefore, getting indoles in your diet should be easy.
Sources of indoles include:
- Cabbage (Bump Up the Benefits and Ferment to Make Kraut)
- Mustard Seed
Indoles are linked to cancer prevention. This plant hormone has shown to prohibit the growth of prostate cancer cells . So, be sure to eat your leafy greens!
You may have noticed that we name-dropped these types of antioxidants earlier. These compounds are also known as phytoestrogens. Therefore, these food sources may be great for people with hormonal imbalances, including women going through menopause.
Phytoestrogen foods include:
- Soybeans (Tofu, Edamame, Tempeh)
If you are a man dealing with infertility issues, you may want to eat a little less of these products. However, don’t cut them off completely. You still need isoflavonoids for a robust immune system.
These antioxidants serve dual purposes. Not only are they antioxidant-rich, but lignans are great sources of prebiotics. Beneficial stomach bacteria consume polysaccharides (sugars) in these plant-based foods.
You can find lignans in:
- Sesame Seeds
In addition, lignans have an abundance of the essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). An analysis of this amino acid looked at several studies spanning 250,00 people. Researchers discovered that increased intake of ALA saw a 14% decreased risk of heart disease .
Lutein is well-known for assisting our body in maintaining eye health. That’s because this antioxidant helps filter out harmful blue light rays emitted from the sun . This blue light can destroy cells and even throw off your sleep cycles.
Find lutein in food sources such as:
You can also find this antioxidant in many eye supplements. So, if you are looking for types of antioxidants to add to your eye vitamin regimen, be sure to add lutein to the list.
These types of antioxidants are responsible for the reddish hue of tomatoes. In fact, tomatoes account for 80% of the average human lycopene consumption .
However, you can also find lycopene in:
Lycopene is excellent for protecting the skin and rejuvenating sun-damaged cells. However, you should watch your lycopene levels if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
This element is derived from an antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD). Manganese plays a pivotal role in how SOD helped fight the development of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis .
You can find this trace mineral in foods, including:
- Acai Berries
- Brown Rice
- Pinto Beans
- Whole Wheat Bread
Getting your manganese intake shouldn’t be hard. Our body doesn’t require much of it. So, be sure to eat up on these foods once or twice per week.
These are some of the most common antioxidants. Polyphenols have shown they help boost cells that have been damaged by radiation or destroyed by pathogens, such as harmful intestinal flora . There are so many types of antioxidants under the polyphenol classification. So, we won’t focus on only one.
Get an abundance and variety of these antioxidants in:
- Red Grapes
So, brew some coffee, add some spices to your dishes, and eat your dark red fruits. These little changes will ensure you are getting a bevy of polyphenols in your diet.
Selenium is another trace element with antioxidant capabilities. Research shows that this essential mineral helps fight off excess reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (NOS) . These are two catalysts for free radical growth.
Get selenium from foods, such as:
- Brazil Nuts
- Cottage Cheese
As you can see, selenium is found in a wide variety of foods. However, selenium supplements are an excellent way of getting this trace mineral into your system regularly.
The benefit of Vitamin A isn’t that far from beta-carotene. This essential vitamin has become a regular addition to many skin and eye care supplements. It also goes a long way in strengthening hair follicles.
Get plenty of Vitamin A by eating:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Egg Yolk
You can also up your Vitamin A intake by applying it topically. There are plenty of Vitamin A oils out there that help clear out the sebaceous glands. When these get clogged up with dirt and oil, we end up with irritated and puffy skin. By eating Vitamin A, you nourish the gut-skin-axis, making for a healthier glow.
Of the types of antioxidants, perhaps none is more synonymous with wound repairs than Vitamin E. Vitamin E is popular in the cosmetic industry as it helps strengthen the skin barrier. It also speeds up the healing process. That’s why many use Vitamin E oil for scar therapy.
Get Vitamin E from foods, such as:
- Extra Virgin Live Oil
As you may have noticed, many of these colors have an olive green-like color. If you stick to food with nature-esque hues, you can probably score a good amount of Vitamin E.
Perhaps this is the most well-known antioxidant. Vitamin C is the mascot for the cough and cold aisle. You’ll find it in everything from throat lozenges to seltzers to cough syrups.
Foods abundant in Vitamin C include:
- Black Currants
You can get Vitamin C in a lot of fruits and vegetables. Save money on over-the-counter meds. Instead, be sure to stock up on produce when cold or flu season is upon us.
This element is the best friend of Vitamin C in that cold aisle we talked about. We depend on this compound to help boost our immune system, DNA synthesis, and to promote cell growth .
Zinc is readily available in foods, such as:
- Shiitake Mushrooms
These types of antioxidants are actually all animal-based. They reflect many of the phytochemicals that we discussed before.
Healthy sources of zoochemicals include:
- Wild-caught Salmon
- Free-range Chicken
- Grass-fed Beef
Zoochemicals contain a litany of essential fatty acids. Therefore, many eat zoochemicals for heart health and to boost their brainpower.
 Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy reviews, 4(8), 118–126. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.70902
 Alexandra Sifferlin. “The Truth About Antioxidants.” Time, Time, 6 Aug. 2013, healthland.time.com/2013/08/06/the-truth-about-antioxidants/.
 LilianaGîtina. “Sulfur Compounds Identification and Quantification from Allium Spp. Fresh Leaves.” Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Elsevier, 20 May 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1021949814000544.
 Khoo, H. E., Azlan, A., Tang, S. T., & Lim, S. M. (2017). Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & nutrition research, 61(1), 1361779. doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779
 Chung, K T, et al. “Tannins and Human Health: a Review.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 1998, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9759559.
 Kumer, Emma. “The Hidden Danger Behind Moscow Mule Copper Mugs.” Taste of Home, 14 Apr. 2018, www.tasteofhome.com/article/the-hidden-danger-behind-copper-moscow-mule-mugs/.
 Burri, B. J., La Frano, M. R., & Zhu, C. (2016). Absorption, metabolism, and functions of β-cryptoxanthin. Nutrition reviews, 74(2), 69–82. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv064
 Commenges, D, et al. “Intake of Flavonoids and Risk of Dementia.” European Journal of Epidemiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2000, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10959944.
 Katz, E., Nisani, S., & Chamovitz, D. A. (2018). Indole-3-carbinol: a plant hormone combatting cancer. F1000Research, 7, F1000 Faculty Rev-689. doi:10.12688/f1000research.14127.1
 Pan, An, et al. “α-Linolenic Acid and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, American Society for Nutrition, Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23076616.
 “Lutein & Zeaxanthin.” American Optometric Association, www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/lutein.
 May, Mary Elizabeth. “What’s Lycopene?” What Is Lycopene?, National Capital Poison Center, 31 July 2019, www.poison.org/articles/lycopene-171.
 Bae, Sang-Cheol, et al. “Inadequate Antioxidant Nutrient Intake and Altered Plasma Antioxidant Status of Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12897046.
Pandey, K. B., & Rizvi, S. I. (2009). Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2(5), 270–278. doi:10.4161/oxim.2.5.9498
 Tinggi U. (2008). Selenium: its role as antioxidant in human health. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 13(2), 102–108. doi:10.1007/s12199-007-0019-4
 Roohani, N., Hurrell, R., Kelishadi, R., & Schulin, R. (2013). Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 18(2), 144–157.