Antioxidants and a Plant-Based Diet - dummies

Antioxidants and a Plant-Based Diet

By Marni Wasserman

When you’re on a plant-based diet, you naturally consume large quantities of antioxidants without having to think about it too much. However, they’re very important and helpful little guys, so here’s a bit more detail so you know why they’re so cool — and which foods contain them.

What antioxidants are and what they do

Antioxidants are protective compounds that prevent cells and tissues from being damaged by clearing your system of free radicals. No, they aren’t some sort of rogue punk rockers; free radicals are chemically unstable oxygen atoms that have one or more unpaired electrons. They steal electrons from other atoms in your body, which can cause damage to your cells, proteins, and DNA.

Because of their ability to shoo away the bad guys, antioxidants have also been known to help in the fight against several degenerative and age-related diseases, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Cancer

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Cataracts and macular degeneration

  • Cognitive impairment

Where to find antioxidants

Antioxidants are everywhere! Here are some favorites:

  • Fruits: Berries (strawberries, blueberries, acai berries, goji berries), plums, pomegranates, grapes, pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, tomatoes, and apples

  • Veggies: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, eggplant, carrots, spinach, and red bell peppers

  • Roots and shoots: Green tea, parsley, garlic, leeks, and onions

  • Legumes: Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans

Chocolate is the ultimate antioxidant! Because chocolate is a bean, it counts as an antioxidant — in fact, one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants, especially in the pure, raw, and natural form known as cacao. So be sure to get your daily dose. Yes, daily if you want. Whether it’s a tablespoon of pure cacao powder or a square (or two) of dairy-free dark chocolate, go for it!