Mayo Clinic Health Library

Slide show: Add antioxidants to your diet

Updated: 03-04-2011

Antioxidants: Why are they important?

Antioxidants: Top food sources

Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Studies suggest that a diet high in antioxidants from fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

As a bonus, foods high in antioxidants are high in fiber, low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and are good sources of other vitamins and minerals. So which foods have the most antioxidants?

Berries: A bountiful source of antioxidants

Cranberries

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries are among the top fruit sources of antioxidants.

Pick a pear — or a plum or an apple

Pears

Pears, plums and many apple varieties (with peel) are high in antioxidants. Other fruits, such as cherries and oranges, also are good sources.

Don't forget your veggies

Artichokes

Artichokes, red cabbage and red leaf lettuce top the list of vegetables high in antioxidants. Other options include asparagus and broccoli.

Potatoes make the cut

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes and russet potatoes — with the skin on — are good sources of antioxidants. Red and white potatoes have less, but are fair sources too.

Go nuts

Walnuts

Walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds are some of the top nuts for antioxidant content. Not crazy about nuts? Try beans and legumes, such as kidney beans, edamame and lentils, which also pack an antioxidant punch.

To your health

Fruit juice

Toast your health with antioxidant-rich fruit juices, such as pomegranate juice. And while you're celebrating, enjoy a nibble of chocolate for another antioxidant boost.

Remember when it comes to adding antioxidants to your diet, no one food or food group should be your sole focus. Instead, be sure to incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and legumes into your healthy diet.

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