5 antioxidant-rich foods that fight disease

5 antioxidant-rich foods that fight disease

Photography by Angus Fergusson

Author: Jill Buchner


5 antioxidant-rich foods that fight disease


Antioxidants don't just have anti-aging benefits, they can also help prevent vision loss, diabetes and even cancer.

You've probably heard about the anti-aging benefits of antioxidants, but we bet you didn't know that these nutrients can also help ward off disease. They prevent cell damage, which makes them pretty incredible at fighting cancer, diabetes and vision loss. And they're easy to find—just add these whole foods to your grocery list.

1. Sight saviours
Otherwise known as: Lutein and zeaxanthin
Found in: Yellow and green vegetables, such as peppers, corn, spinach and broccoli
How they work: Eating foods rich in these nutrients can help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. "They improve the function of the retina itself," says Desiree Nielsen, a Vancouver registered dietitian. "If you don't get lutein and zeaxanthin in your diet, it contributes to deterioration in eyesight as you get older."

2. Age defier
Otherwise known as: Lycopene
Found in: Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and papaya
How it works: Lycopene helps fight photodamage, which is the damage to skin or DNA caused by exposure to UV radiation. Over time, that can mean a younger-looking complexion, says Nielsen. It's also a potent anti-inflammatory, and research shows it may help prevent strokes and heart disease. For the most benefit, eat lycopene-rich foods cooked—tomato paste is one of the best sources because it's so concentrated. 

3. Sugar blocker
Otherwise known as: Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
Found in: Green tea
How it works: A 2007 study found that green tea's all-star antioxidant EGCG can benefit insulin sensitivity, while a 2013 analysis of 17 studies showed that the tea can improve blood sugar. That's an important task, since insulin resistance can increase risk for Type 2 diabetes. Nielsen says green tea's EGCG may also lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, which is key to a healthy cardiovascular system. "They haven't determined an optimal dose yet, but consuming two or three cups of green tea a day is a good idea," she says.

4. Cancer combatants
Otherwise known as: Glucosinolates
Found in: Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, watercress and kale
How they work: These antioxidants break down into compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention. "When cells mutate, gluco­sinolates help kill them so they don't progress into cancer cells," explains Nielsen. Nosh on these veggies raw, as heat destroys the enzymes that break glucosinolates down during digestion. 

5. Upcycler
Otherwise known as: Selenium
Found in: Brazil nuts, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds and Pacific oysters
How it works: Our bodies also make some antioxidants, and the mineral selenium helps recharge them so we can maximize their effects. Make sure to get selenium from food, not supplements, cautions Nielsen. "It's toxic in large amounts," she says.

Read more:
3 supers-simple ways to add more antioxidants to your diet
How to get out of an unhealthy eating slump


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5 antioxidant-rich foods that fight disease