Food for Thought: A Deep Dive into Antioxidants

September 17, 2021

The Importance of Antioxidants and Fighting Off Oxidative Stress

We’ve all heard about antioxidants and their seemingly magical properties, but what really are antioxidants and are they worth the hype?

First, let’s break things down a bit. Antioxidants are molecules found in a variety of substances, such as fruits and vegetables, that fight off free radicals in your body.

What are free radicals, you ask? At a very high level, they are chemically reactive atoms that are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. The body generates free radicals as the inevitable byproducts of turning food into energy and they come in many shapes and sizes. In excess, free radicals in the body can cause a condition called oxidative stress, which may damage cells and lead to chronic diseases.

This is where antioxidants come in and why they are so important. They work by giving electrons to free radicals and by aiding in the repair of DNA and maintenance of the health of cells.

Antioxidants aid in reducing oxidative stress by donating an electron to neutralize unstable molecules

Breakdown: How Antioxidants Optimize Body Function

Next, let’s try and better understand this issue of oxidative stress, which is linked to conditions such as cancer, chronic inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), some complications include “cancer, diabetes, and related metabolic diseases.” 

There has been a considerable amount of research pointing to the health benefits in people who consume sufficient quantities of antioxidants, but the National Institutes of Health adds that it is possible that the correlation between the study and results of the benefits of antioxidant-rich diets might also have to do with a combination of substances in the food or even other related lifestyle factors.

But research into the benefits of antioxidants is growing more and more compelling.

In a study published by the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers divided 23,000 Americans, aged 30 years old or older, into four different groups based solely on their antioxidant consumption. This study found that individuals who consumed the highest amount of antioxidants had a 21% reduced risk of death from all-cause and cardiovascular disease over a 13-year period than people who ate the least amount of antioxidants. It is important to note that this association remained even as the researchers accounted for relevant mitigating factors such as participants’ age, sex, and economic status. 

Producing similar results, a meta-analysis published in Critical Reviews in Oncology found that within a population of 700,000 individuals, a diet rich in antioxidants may reduce the risk of cancer, with significant reductions seen with “colorectal, endometrial, and gastric cancer” in particular. 

With numerous clinical trials supporting these claims, it is clear that boosting the amount of antioxidants in your diet is widely considered to have a positive impact on your health.

It is important to note that dietary antioxidants should not be a substitute for medical treatment. Much of the research we’ve discussed has looked at a distant total antioxidant intake, which is estimated that men need at least 11,000 ORAC units and women should get at least 8,000 units, and what researchers found were correlations, not cause-and-effect relationships.

While there’s plenty of research linking higher antioxidant intake and lower risk of disease, one can’t say with certainty that piling up on any antioxidant will change your health in any dramatic way. 

So, how can you get more antioxidants?

There may be foods you regularly eat that contain antioxidants without you even realizing! Vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene,  and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium all are antioxidants. There are hundreds of substances that contain antioxidants and below is a list of some of the foods that rank highest in their antioxidant count.

Foods High in Antioxidants:


Vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. Veggies that are packed full of them include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots


Most fruits also contain high levels of antioxidants. Common household fruits that fit the bill include: 

  • Mango
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon

Other Foods

While fruits and vegetables are a wonderful source of antioxidants, there are many other common foods that contain antioxidants, as well as other important nutrients. 


  • Black beans, pinto beans, red beans, and red kidney beans have the highest antioxidant content.


  • Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans contain significant amounts of antioxidants.


  •  Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and sesame seeds are rich in antioxidants.

So what does this all mean?

Antioxidants play an important role in protecting and supporting your body. As long as you eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, chances are you are likely getting enough antioxidants.

Looking to add more antioxidants into your diet but don’t know where to start? No worries, Eat Purely has a variety of dishes that are high in antioxidants for every meal of the day!

Blueberry Labneh Parfait

Blueberries take the theoretical “cake” for containing the most antioxidants of all fruit & vegetables. Our new Blueberry Labneh Parfait is a great (and tasty!) way to get a full serving of blueberries for the day.

The main antioxidant compounds found within blueberries belong to a family of polyphenol antioxidants named flavonoids.

Flavonoids are a group of plant metabolites that provide health benefits through antioxidant effects. These molecules are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Enjoy this creamy parfait while getting a rich dose of antioxidants. That’s the efficiency we like to see!

PB&K Salad

Say “Kale Yeah!” to our PB&K Salad. This dish and the high antioxidant content that comes with it! This salad is built on a bed of Kale and embellished by pecans.

Kale contains a broad range of antioxidants, such as quercetin which has anti-viral properties and lutein which might play a role in preventing optic conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts. New Science confirms that Pecans Rank #1 in antioxidant capacity amongst all nuts.

Lentil Bowl with Dill Crema

Our Lentil Bowl with Dill Crema is packed with rich antioxidants namely through the base of cashews for the vegan crema. Cashews are a rich source of polyphenols and carotenoids - two classes of antioxidants commonly found in tree nuts. Studies link antioxidants in nuts like cashews, walnuts, pecans, and almonds to lower levels of oxidative cell damage.

The Bottom Line

Adequate antioxidant intake is essential to maintaining a healthy diet. The best strategy is to get your daily dose of antioxidants from healthy plant foods, such as the ones above, consistently and not in excess.

Have specific questions for our In-House Nutrition Consultant about this topic?

Feel free to shoot her an email at