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15 Foods High in Antioxidants

Want to increase your intake of antioxidants? These fifteen foods can help you do so. Add them to your grocery list!

Antioxidants help counter oxidative stress, and may boost your immune system and decrease your risk of infection. The best source of antioxidant vitamins and minerals is a wholesome, varied diet that includes plenty of fresh (preferably organic) fruits, vegetables and nuts.

The following list, originally published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ranked the top food sources of antioxidants based on serving size. Add them to your grocery list!

  1. Blackberries
  2. Walnuts
  3. Strawberries
  4. Artichokes (prepared)
  5. Cranberries
  6. Coffee
  7. Raspberries
  8. Pecans
  9. Blueberries
  10. Ground cloves
  11. Grape juice
  12. Chocolate, baking, unsweetened
  13. Cranberry juice
  14. Sour cherries
  15. Red wine

Other antioxidant-rich choices include prunes, dark unsweetened chocolate, cooked red cabbage, orange juice, and spinach.

Good News About Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Aside from the fact that they enable you to avoid pesticides used on conventionally grown produce, a new review has found that organic fruits and vegetables often provide higher levels of health-protective antioxidants. While the authors haven’t claimed that organic fruits and vegetables are necessarily better for your health than conventionally grown produce, they did point out the antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases in previous studies. This contradicts the results of earlier reports that found no nutritional advantage to organic fruits and vegetables. The new investigation is a statistical “meta-analysis” of the findings from 343 previously published studies. It concluded that overall, organic crops contained 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops and that levels of flavanones (a nutrient abundant in citrus fruits) were 69 percent higher in organic produce. Surprisingly, the review also found that organically grown foods, particularly grains, were lower in cadmium, a toxic metal that sometimes contaminates conventional fertilizers.

My take? While this review's authors made no claims for the health benefits of organic foods, their conclusions illuminate the potential differences between organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. We haven’t had many studies that directly compared organic and conventionally grown foods and found that that one is better than the other. We know there is evidence of pesticide residues in 71 to 90 percent of conventionally produced foods, however, compared to 13 to 23 percent of organically grown foods, and pesticides are definitely not good for you.

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Carlo Leifert et al, “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.” British Journal of Nutrition, June 2014 26:1-18. [Epub ahead of print]

Want Healthier Skin, Hair and Nails?

Certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are important for healthy hair, nails and skin. In addition to eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild Alaskan salmon and freshly ground flaxseed, and taking care to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to avoid sunburn, consider taking these supplements. Each provides benefits for your hair, skin and nails:

1. Evening Primrose Oil - nourishes skin, hair and joints by supplying essential omega-6 fatty acids.

2. Omega-3 - provides the much-needed fatty acids EPA and DHA.

3. Vitamin D - supports bone and immune health.

4. Milk thistle - supports a healthy liver via its detoxification process and provides natural antioxidant capabilities.

New Strategy to Prevent Cataracts

The more antioxidants in women’s diets, the lower the risk of developing cataracts as they age. This news comes from a Swedish study that looked at the diets of more than 30,000 middle aged and older women, and found those with the highest total intake of antioxidant nutrients were 13 percent less likely to develop cataracts than women whose diets were lowest in antioxidants. Cataract development may hinge on oxidative damage to the eye’s lens by free radicals, the study leader noted. Her team observed more than 30,000 Swedish women age 49 or older for about 7 years for signs of developing cataracts. The women completed a dietary questionnaire, which enabled the researchers to calculate their subjects’ total antioxidant intake. They found that the women whose diets were highest in antioxidant foods were more educated and less likely to be smokers than the women whose antioxidant intake was lowest. Antioxidants are most plentiful in colorful fruits and vegetables as well as in green tea, red wine and chocolate. The study was published online on December 26, 2013 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Susanne Rautiainen et al, “Total Antioxidant Capacity of the Diet and Risk of Age-Related Cataract: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort of Women,” JAMA Ophthalmology, doi:10.1001