Researchers at The State University of New York at Buffalo found that anxiety is associated with a low antioxidant state in the body. They found that antioxidants elevate mood immediately and provide long-lasting health!1 Antioxidants are compounds in food that inhibit oxidation. People with anxiety and constant stress have an increased amount of oxidation in the body, and eating antioxidants reverses this process. Oxidation is caused by many factors, including chronic stress and anxiety. Oxidative imbalance in the body leads to anxiety. (2)
Oxidation is a chemical reaction that produces free radicals, leading to chain reactions that damage the cells. But antioxidants are like superhero molecules that come in and stand up to the free radicals that are villainizing the body. Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables and are segregated in these three groups: vitamins, phenolic compounds, and carotenoids. For example, vitamins A, C, and E are all antioxidants. Hydroxytyrosol, which is a phenolic compound drawn from the olive tree and found in olive oil, is said to be the most powerful natural antioxidant currently known.
Every time you eat plant-based foods (ie: fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds), you consume all of the antioxidants you need. Some are higher in antioxidants than others. Fortunately for you, the recipes in my new book, Anxiety-Free with Food, are all high in antioxidants. The top 10 list of foods to reduce anxiety in the book offer a generous supply of antioxidants.
A group of researchers from the department of nutrition at the University of Oslo’s Institute of Basic Medical Sciences in Norway did an incredible study in 2010 of more than 3,000 foods to find out which were the highest in antioxidants. These foods constitute the Antioxidant Food Table. (3) This database is, to the best of my knowledge, the most comprehensive database of antioxidant foods ever published. It shows that plant-based foods introduce significantly more antioxidants into our diet than non-plant foods.
There are several thousand-fold differences in the antioxidant content of different foods. Spices and herbs are some of the most antioxidant-rich ingredients, and some levels are exceptionally high. Clove, mint, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and rosemary are the highest! Nuts and seeds were the next highest in antioxidants, with the level in walnuts being off the charts, followed by the levels in pecans, and then in sunflower seeds and chestnuts. Berries, fruits, vegetables, chocolate, and even coffee were also loaded. I was the most surprised to see that walnuts were the highest of all 3,000 commonly known antioxidant-rich foods!
We know from countless proven studies that a plant-based diet protects against chronic oxidative stress-related diseases. Nutritive plants contain diverse chemicals and amounts of antioxidants that contribute to incredibly beneficial health effects. The berries, fruits, and vegetables highest in antioxidants according to the table (4) are as follows—and it’s a mixture of common ones and some that are quite obscure depending on which continent you reside on:
Top Antioxidant-Rich Foods:
(according to the Antioxidant Food Table)
- amla (Indian gooseberry), dried
- dog rose/rose hips
- African baobab tree, leaves dry, crushed and fruit
- zereshk (red sour berries also known as barberries)
- okra/gumbo from Mali (dry flour)
- dried apples
- artichokes ties with blueberries
- chili tied with prunes
- black olives tied with dates and mangoes
- Y. Xu, et al., “Novel Therapeutic Targets in Depression and Anxiety: Antioxidants as a Candidate Treatment,” Current Neuropharmacology, vol. 12, no. 2 (March 2014), pp. 108–119, doi: 10.2174/1570159X11666131120231448.
- R. Krolow, et al., “Oxidative Imbalance and Anxiety Disorders,” Current Neuropharmacology, vol. 12, no. 2 (March 2014), pp. 193–204, doi: 10.2174/1570159X11666131120223530.
- M.H. Carlsen, et al., “The Total Antioxidant Content of More than 3100 Foods, Beverages, Spices, Herbs and Supplements Used Worldwide,” Nutrition Journal, vol. 9 (January 22, 2010), p. 3, doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-3.