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Health Monster

15 Antioxidants and Their Superpowers

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When it comes to health, we all know that what we eat is very important. Not only does our body require nutrition to function optimally but it needs a special kind of substance found primarily in plant foods to thrive. Antioxidants or ‘phytochemicals’ are special plant compounds that have the ability to fight free-radicals — undesirable chemical by-products of cellular respiration also present in certain foods and our environment.

Considering that an overload of free-radicals is an important factor in the development of diseases and premature aging, making sure we get plenty of antioxidants in our diet is essential.

The best way to do that is to focus on eating a variety of delicious plant foods. Although they are categorized in groups (e.g carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids), each type of antioxidant has distinct properties. In other words, the more you consume, the better you will feel!

Want to know more about some of the most commonly found antioxidants and their health benefits? Here are the main families of antioxidants. We’ve also added recipe examples from the Food Monster App to help you get the most on your plate!

CarotenoidsVegan Raw Sweet Potato in slices

 Shutterstock

Carotenoids are a group of antioxidants made up of more than seven hundred compounds. However, only around fifty are a part of our diet and twenty are present in our blood and tissues.

These natural pigments give sweet potatoes and other vegetables their vibrant color. They’re important to photosynthesis in plants. They have the property of scavenging reactive oxygen species (free-radicals).

Some of the most commonly found types of carotenoids include:

1. Beta-caroteneVegan Smoked Carrot 'Salmon' Sandwiches on sourdough bread, with dairy-free cream cheese

Smoked Carrot ‘Salmon’ Sandwiches/One Green Planet

As a precursor to retinol (otherwise known as vitamin A), beta-carotene is an important phytochemical. Not only does it play a role in supporting our immune system functions, this compound also possesses powerful free-radical fighting properties. Thanks to its antioxidant effect, beta-carotene is linked to a reduced risk of getting cardiovascular disease and shows chemopreventative benefits.

Fat soluble, the best way to make sure you reap the benefits of this type of carotenoid is by eating recipes like the Smoked Carrot ‘Salmon’ Sandwiches pictured above or these Quinoa and Pea Pesto Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.

2. LycopeneCaprese Salad With Hearts Of Palm

Caprese Salad With Hearts Of Palm/One Green Planet

Present in tomatoes, grapefruit, papaya, watermelon, and other rose to crimson colored fruits and veggies, lycopene is one of the most consumed type of carotenoid. Unaffected by processing and cooking (heat actually improve its bioavailability), this compound might also be one to offer the most wide reaching health benefits.

Notably, its antioxidant activity confers lycopene with the ability to fight multiple forms of cancer and chronic diseases. Some studies also suggest the compound might be beneficial in treating osteoporosis, asthma, gingivitis, and common ailments such as sunburn.

We suggest making this Turkish Tomato, Bulgur, and Red Pepper Soup or these Eggplants in Tomato Garlic Sauce to get a good dose of lycopene.

3. LuteinRaw Vegan Gluten-Free Soy-Free Nut-Free Oil-Free Lemon Tahini Kale Chips

Raw Lemon Tahini Kale Chips/One Green Planet

This carotenoid type is a fat-soluble powerful antioxidant shown to play a role in preventing age-related macular degeneration and slowing down its progression. Plant-based sources of lutein include dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and Brussels sprouts as well as nuts like pistachios.

If you’re looking for recipes containing lutein-rich foods, why not make this Nutrient-Dense Broccoli, Peas, and Kale Soup, this Herb and Garlic Massaged Kale Salad, or these Spinach and Pepper Potato Bowls?

FlavonoidsBlood Orange Slices

 Shutterstock

Like carotenoids, the flavonoid family is rather large with more than ten thousand compounds existing in the plant kingdom. They are responsible for the beautiful color of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, in which they perform a range of biological activities such as protecting plants against UV radiation, frost, and microbes. Once ingested, dietary flavonoids act in the human body as antioxidant agents and protect us from a range of serious diseases.

The main forms of flavonoids:

1. AnthocyaninsVegan Gluten-Free Warm Blueberry Overnight Oats with compote

Warm Blueberry Overnight Oats/One Green Planet

Found in high concentration in berries and other plants with deep red, purple, and blue hues, anthocyanins are an especially potent category of antioxidants. Widely studied, these compounds show benefits in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurological decline.

Want to get in on this incredible antioxidant action? You can easily get your fill of anthocyanins by making this 3-Ingredient Berry Cereal, this Chia Pudding With Blueberries, or this Fancy Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese.

2. Kaempferol10-Minute Seitan “Beef” and Broccoli

10-Minute Seitan ‘Beef’ and Broccoli/One Green Planet

This type of flavonoid is the ultimate cancer-fighter. Not only does its antioxidant property enhance our body’s defenses against free-radicals which promote cancer but kaempferol also works on the molecular level to prevent cancer cell growth through its effect on cellular pathways linked with metastasis.

Good sources of kaempferol include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans, onions, strawberries, and tea. We suggest trying out this Roasted Brussels Sprouts Brown Rice Salad With Sesame Orange Dressing, this Broccoli Spinach Soup With Toasted Chickpeas, and these Onion and Sweet Potato Pierogis to get plenty of this antioxidant.

3. QuercetinVegan Gluten-Free Vegetables and Lemongrass Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers With Vegetables, Wild Rice, and Lemongrass/One Green Planet

Like other flavonoids, quercetin boasts many benefits thanks to its antioxidant power. Its positive effect on hypertension and protective properties against atherosclerosis makes it an interesting ally in fighting cardiovascular disease. The compound is also a great immuno-modulator and inflammation fighter which gives it anticarcinogenic properties.

The best sources of quercetin include cruciferous vegetables, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, capers, cranberries, and citrus fruit. For a nice meal full of antioxidants, try making this Turkish Tomato, Bulgur, and Red Pepper Soup, this Pasta With Capers and Greens, or this Wild Rice Pilaf With Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans.

4. CatechinGalaxy Dark Chocolate With Raspberries

Galaxy Dark Chocolate With Raspberries/One Green Planet

Ever heard that dark chocolate and wine is good for you? Catechin is the main reason for these claims. This type of flavonoid is good for the heart as it helps reduce low-density lipoprotein oxidation, a factor involved with the development of heart disease.

Want to get some catechin into your diet? Tea, dark chocolate, legumes, and fruits like apple and pears are all great sources. We suggest trying this White Bean Gratin, this Red Pear and Butternut Squash Soup, or this Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Miso Pear Dressing for an inspired antioxidant-rich dinner.

5. Caffeic AcidCoffee Cream With Granola and Blueberries

Coffee Cream With Granola and Blueberries/One Green Planet

Like its name suggests, caffeic acid is found primarily in coffee but is also present in plant foods such as berries, olives, and fresh herbs. Interest in this compound largely centers around its potential in fighting cancer. Its antioxidant properties have been shown to induce apoptosis (death) in cancer cells through their action on DNA damage at the molecular level.

Aside from your morning cup of joe’, getting caffeic acid into your diet can be easily done by making recipes like these Pumpkin Sage Croquettes, this Olive and Artichoke Tart With Buckwheat Crust, or this Fettuccine With Oyster Mushrooms and Thyme.

6. Gallic Acidvegan Healthy Spelt, Oats, Chia and Flax Seed Crisps

Healthy Spelt, Oats, Chia and Flax Seed Crisps/One Green Planet

This antioxidant compound is a powerful antimicrobial and antifungal agent. Apart from its positive effect on pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Corynobacterium accolans, gallic acid also possesses cytotoxic properties. Its ability to scavenge electrophilic mutagens (chemical molecules that damage DNA) makes it a compound of interest in fighting cancer. It has been shown to kill cancer cells in breast and prostate cancer and is likely beneficial in other types as well.

Good sources of gallic acid include onion, cauliflower, eggplant, and radish so making these Beet Tacos With Mung Beans With Blackened Tofu, Radish Slaw, and Crispy Corn, this Warm Cauliflower Salad, or this Roasted Stuffed Eggplant With Maple Balsamic Glaze is a good way to get this antioxidant on your plate.

7. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)Iced Matcha Green Tea Frappes

Iced Matcha Green Tea Frappé With Coconut Whip/One Green Planet

If you’ve ever wondered why tea is so good for you, this antioxidant is part of the answer. Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG for short is in the catechin family and is a derivative of gallic acid. As such, it has similar properties. It’s good for your heart, protects your brain from cognitive decline, and prevents cancer.

The best way to get EGCG? Brew yourself a nice cup of tea or try out this Earl Grey Rose Nectar, these Magical Mango Matcha Shakes, or this Energizing Turmeric Tea.

8. ResveratrolWhite Pizza With Fennel and Roasted Grapes

White Pizza With Fennel and Roasted Grapes/One Green Planet

Found in the skin of grapes and berries, resveratrol is at the center of red wine’s debated benefits. While drinking a cup of wine every night may or may not be beneficial according to science, the antioxidant compound itself has multiple worthwhile properties.

Resveratrol activates a family of proteins involved with immune functions, cellular functions, stress resistance, and metabolism which means it plays a role in the treatment and prevention of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even neurological diseases.

If you want to reap all the health benefits of this antioxidant and satisfy your taste buds, we suggest you try this Cinnamon Spiced Apple and Grape Salad, this Wild Rice and Bread Stuffing With Roasted Grapes, and these Thyme-Scented Roasted Grapes.

9. Vitamin ECherry Almond Raisin Bars

Cherry Almond Raisin Bars/One Green Planet

Vitamin E, coined the most important lipid-soluble antioxidant by researchers, is especially good for the skin as it can combat sun damage and prevent aging. Apart from cosmetic benefits, vitamin E also has a positive effect on health, namely heart health as it contributes to lowering LDL oxidation, a risk factor of the cardiovascular disease.

Get your fill of vitamin E by eating foods like green leafy vegetables, whole grains, as well as nuts and seeds. Try making this Cheesy Polenta With Hearty Greens, these Smoky Southern Collard Greens, or this Whole Grain Protein Bowl.

10. Vitamin CVegan Gluten-Free Winter Citrus Smoothie with hemp seeds and raspberries

Winter Citrus Smoothie/One Green Planet

We all know the powers of vitamin C when it comes to boosting our immune system. This vitamin does so in major part due to its antioxidant properties. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid reduces inflammation in our bodies and is an important antioxidant in the maintenance of healthy vascular endothelial cells. This is especially pertinent as major diseases such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, smoking, diabetes, and atherosclerosis are characterized by a dysfunction in endothelial cells.

Our favorite ways to get vitamin C include making delicious morning smoothies like this Mint-Citrus Smoothie, this Orange Creamsicle Smoothie, or this Orange Sweet Potato Smoothie. You can also check out these 8 Surprising Fruits and Veggies That Contain More Vitamin C Than Oranges.

11. Vitamin B6Herbed Celeriac Puree with Sauteed Chanterelle Mushrooms

 Herbed Celeriac Purée With Sautéed Chanterelle Mushrooms/One Green Planet

You may have heard the importance of B-vitamins in protecting our brain functions but did you know that pyridoxine (vitamin B6) has antioxidant properties that benefit our whole body? Research indicates that this vitamin may protect us against cardiovascular disease thanks to its antioxidant activity that reduces plasma homocysteine, a risk factor in developing atherosclerosis.

Getting vitamin B6 is as easy as making whole grains, beans, tofu, potatoes, and seeds a part of your daily diet. Want recipe ideas? Check out this Crispy Lemon Ginger Tofu With Broccoli and this White Bean Gratin.

12. MelatoninNo Bake Mini Cherry Tart

No-Bake Mint Cherry Tart/One Green Planet

Well-known for its positive effect on our sleep cycle, melatonin also acts as an antioxidant thanks to its ability to prevent oxidative damage. Research shows that it is especially effective in reducing damages induced by strokes and heart attacks. This antioxidant is an interesting ally in fighting cancer as well as it can target cancer cells at multiple stages and increase the adherence of cancer treatment in some resistant cancers. How awesome is that?

You can find naturally occurring melatonin in a small selection of plant foods such as nuts, cherries, mushrooms, cereal, and legumes. Give this Crimini Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Deep Dish Quiche, this Vegetable Millet Casserole, or this Marinated Chickpea and Artichoke Salad a try!

Recommended Resources and RecipesKale Pesto Pizza 1

Kale Pesto Pizza/One Green Planet

Want to know more about nutrition and the incredible health benefits of a plant-based diet? Then, these articles might interest you:

Also, if you want to find more health-boosting recipes packed with antioxidants, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster Appwhich is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead Image Source: Shutterstock

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