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Two oxes walk into a bar...


Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures, including poor nutrition. The sources of antioxidants can be natural or artificial. The health-power of antioxidants can't be stressed enough.


From Harvard University via The Nutrition Source - T H Chan School of Public Health: “Antioxidants came to public attention in the 1990's, when scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis (heart disease). It was also linked to cancer, vision loss, and a host of other chronic conditions. Some studies showed that people with low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were at greater risk for developing these chronic conditions, than were people who ate plenty of those foods.”

To get you started, here is a partial list of some antioxidants paired with nutrient dense, whole plant foods (and beverages) which host these free radical killers. Think of these foods as superheroes.

  • allicin - garlic, onions, leeks, shallots

  • allium sulphur compounds – leeks, onions, garlic

  • anthocyanins – eggplant, grapes, berries

  • beta-carotene – pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, parsley

  • betalains – beets, Swiss chard

  • carotenoids – carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, asparagus

  • catechins – tea

  • copper – figs, spinach, nuts

  • CoQ10 – cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, arugula), oranges, lentils, sesame seeds

  • cryptoxanthins – red bell pepper, pumpkin, mangoes

  • flavonoids – black tea, green tea, citrus fruits, onions, apples

  • indoles – cruciferous vegetables (see CoQ10)

  • isoflavonoids – soybeans, tofu, lentils, peas

  • lignans – sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables

  • lutein – green leafy vegetables, broccoli, corn

  • lycopene – tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, asparagus, red cabbage

  • manganese – nuts, legumes, lentils, oats

  • polyphenols – thyme, oregano, berries, dark cacao

  • selenium – whole grains, Brazil nuts

  • sulforaphane - cruciferous veggies (see CoQ10) 

  • vitamin A – sweet potatoes, carrots

  • vitamin C – oranges, blackcurrants, kiwifruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, capsicum, strawberries, lemons, apples

  • vitamin E – avocados, nuts, seeds, whole grains

  • zinc – nuts, seeds, legumes


Lifestyle and integrative physicians will not shut up about green leafy vegetables. I admit that I've also joined "The Greens Brigade" and generally eat about three servings a day. Nitric oxide is a healthy gas created by mixing saliva and stomach acid with nitrate-rich foods, such as food-hero green leafies. Greens galvanize long-term health.

From Cornell University via the Center for Nutrition Studies: "Because NO is so important throughout the body, this means that nitrate can have wide ranging effects. Research has shown that dietary nitrate works by making blood vessels bigger, increasing the amount of blood with each heartbeat, increasing the amount of oxygen in muscles, and thus increasing muscle strength. The bacteria in the mouth are crucial because humans can’t convert nitrate to nitrite - only the bacteria in our mouths can. 


Killing these bacteria by using mouthwash or antibiotics has been shown to stop the production of NO from dietary nitrate! Another important step in the production of NO from dietary nitrate is the acid within the stomach. Therefore, decreasing stomach acid with certain medications (antacids and acid  reducing medications), can also decrease NO production and its positive effects. Vegetables are the main source contributing around 85% of daily nitrate intake. Most of the remaining nitrate comes from drinking water. Analyses indicate that the highest levels occur in green, leafy vegetables." 


Here is a list of some nitrate-rich foods:


  • beets

  • bok choy

  • cabbage

  • carrots

  • celery

  • chard

  • citrus fruits

  • dark cacao

  • garlic

  • kale

  • leeks

  • lettuce (particularly arugula, aka rocket)

  • nuts (raw)

  • parsley

  • pomegranate

  • radish

  • rhubarb

  • seeds (raw)

  • spinach

  • turnips

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