High Antioxidant Foods

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 23, 2022

Antioxidants are substances that may prevent some kinds of cell damage that can lead to serious diseases. They are found naturally in many fruits and vegetables and can also be taken as a supplement. 

The three main antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E

Other antioxidants include: 

Antioxidants may protect your body against free radicals, which are destructive molecules, usually made of oxygen, made as byproducts of natural processes in the body. 

Free radicals can build up in your cells and cause damage to other molecules, increasing your risk of cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants may help protect cells against this damage. To balance free radicals and antioxidants in your body, you need to consume 8-11,000 antioxidant units per day.

However, research suggests that when it comes to fighting disease, antioxidants are not as powerful as some advertisers claim. 

Researchers found that vitamin E and other antioxidants didn't protect against cancer or heart disease. Other studies showed that taking beta-carotene supplements may have cognitive benefits in the long term, but also raises the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke.

However, a diet high in fruits and vegetables is healthy for many other reasons. Foods with antioxidants are typically:

  1. Berries
    The top fruit sources of antioxidants are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries. Just one cup of wild blueberries contains 13,427 total antioxidants. 
  2. Colorful Vegetables
    Many red, orange, deep yellow, and dark green vegetables contain the antioxidant carotene. Carotene-rich produce includes:
  3. Nuts
    Nuts are a rich source of antioxidants. Walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts have the highest amount of antioxidants of all tree nuts. Walnuts contain over 20 millimoles (mmol) antioxidants per 100 grams. Although they are technically a legume, peanuts are also high in antioxidants.
  4. Dark Chocolate
    Dark chocolate comes from the seeds of cacao pods, which are roasted into cocoa beans.  Cocoa is a source of antioxidants because it contains flavanols, which may help protect the heart. Dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than milk chocolate and white chocolate because it has a higher concentration of cocoa solids and less cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and oil.
  5. Red Wine
    Red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which comes from the skin of red grapes. It is also found in peanuts and berries. Evidence suggests that resveratrol can destroy cancer cells and increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments, although the data isn't conclusive. 
  6. Coffee
    Coffee beans contain a number of antioxidants, including: 

    • Cafestol
    • Trigonelline
    • Phenols
    • Melanoidins
    • Quinine

    According to a press release by the American Chemical Society, high levels of phenols are present even in used coffee grounds. The American Chemical Society also claims that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the typical U.S. diet. On the basis of antioxidants per serving size and frequency of consumption, coffee beat out all of the other foods studied.

Show Sources


American Chemistry Society: “Coffee is number one source of antioxidants.”

American Chemical Society: “How used coffee-grounds could make some food more healthful.”

American Lung Association: “Antioxidants: Lung Cancer's Friend or Foe?”

British Journal of Nutrition: “Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants.”


Endocrine-Related Cancer: “Resveratrol and cancer: focus on in vivo evidence.”

JAMA Internal Medicine: “Resveratrol Levels and All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Adults.”

Mayo Clinic: “Slideshow: Add antioxidants to your diet.”

National Cancer Institute: “free radical.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Antioxidants: In Depth.”

Nutrition Facts: “How to Get Enough Antioxidants Each Day.”

The Nutrition Source: “Antioxidants.”

The Nutrition Source: “Dark Chocolate.”

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