The Best Vegan Sources of Antioxidants (List With Values)

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Refresher:

  • Antioxidants essentially cancel out free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to aging
  • Studies have shown that antioxidant supplements have no positive effect on disease (some have a negative effect). So get antioxidants from foods.
  • Your RDA depends on your caloric intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet, it’s around 10 mmols per day, keep that in mind as you read on. Get more details on the RDA here.

There was a really cool study done in 2010 where researchers looked at the antioxidants in over 3100 foods.

It’s free to access, but not exactly in an easy to scan format (plus it has non-vegan sources).

I went through the report and pulled out the values for vegan foods so that we could find the best sources.

A couple notes first:

  • If there were multiple values for a food, I took the median
  • I didn’t record dried foods other than spices (e.g. no dried dates)
  • I only looked at whole foods (e.g. many cereals are fortified with antioxidants)
  • Don’t take these numbers as gospel; antioxidant levels vary significantly by the sample tested, so just use them as a ballpark idea

The 50 Best Overall Vegan Sources of Antioxidants

Let’s start by looking at the best foods in terms of antioxidant content after grouping them all together.

Spices are dried, so it’s kind of cheating since it’s on a per 100g basis.

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Allspice 101.52
Thyme, dried 63.13
Oregano, dried 40.3
Nutmeg, dried 33
Cinnamon, dried 17.65
Turmeric, dried 15.68
Cacao powder 13.74
Dark chocolate (70% Lindt) 13.44
Walnuts 13.13
Basil, dried 12.31
Ginger, dried 11.31
Cumin, dried 10.3
Curry, powder 9.98
Paprika, dried 8.6
Parsley, dried 7.43
Cayenne pepper, dried 5.38
Pepper, black, dried 4.54
Blackberries 4.02
Artichoke, boiled 3.89
Cranberries 3.29
Coriander, leaves, dried 2.84
Pomegranate 2.78
Raspberries 2.33
Strawberries 2.16
Thyme, fresh 2.16
Blueberries 1.85
Pepper, red, cooked 1.64
Grape juice 1.62
Gooseberries 1.45
Pistachios 1.43
Sweet cherries 1.42
Beet 1.41
Pinto beans, dried 1.18
Flaxseed, ground 1.13
Barley flour 1.09
Kiwi 1.02
Lemon 1.02
Lentils, green 1
Broccoli, cooked 1
Spinach 1
Soy beans 0.99
Hazelnuts 0.94
Pepper, red 0.91
Orange juice 0.89
Plums 0.83
Basil, fresh 0.82
Kidney beans, dried 0.81
Garlic, dried 0.8
Cabbage, red 0.8
Clementines 0.74

There are a few takeaways here:

  • Spices are good in terms of antioxidants, even if you can’t eat a ton at a time. Get in the habit of cooking with them and you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
  • Chocolate and walnuts are amazing, they even outrank some of the spices.
  • Most of the other top results are various berries.

Now we’ll quickly look at the individual food categories in more detail.

Berries

There were 7 unique berries that I recorded from the study.

They all have a decent level of antioxidants:

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Blackberries 4.02
Cranberries 3.29
Raspberries 2.33
Strawberries 2.16
Blueberries 1.85
Gooseberries 1.45
Sweet cherries 1.42

I’d like to once again point out that these number vary based on the sample. I’ve seen other reports where they claimed blueberries had ~9 mmol/100g.

SUMMARY

The takeaway here is that berries have a ton of antioxidants, so try to eat some on a regular basis.

Fats, Oils, and Chocolate

I added chocolate to this category because there weren’t many foods in both.

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Cacao powder 13.74
Dark chocolate (70% Lindt) 13.44
Canola oil 0.46
Soy bean oil 0.44
Vegetable oil (Crisco) 0.41
Corn oil 0.34
Sunflower oil 0.33
Olive oil 0.25

Chocolate is a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants, just make sure yours doesn’t have too much sugar in it.

Oils do have some antioxidants, but not a large amount. They also have a lot of calories, so they shouldn’t play a major part of most diets.

Fruits

Fruits were separated from berries in the report, so I kept them separated.

Not surprisingly, fruits score quite well when it comes to antioxidants.

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Pomegranate 2.78
Grape juice 1.62
Kiwi 1.02
Lemon 1.02
Orange juice 0.89
Plums 0.83
Clementines 0.74
Dates 0.72
Cranapple juice 0.71
Pineapple 0.6
Grapefruit 0.59
Orange juice 0.56
Apricots 0.52
Lime 0.47
Apple juice 0.36
Cherries 0.35
Banana 0.34
Mango 0.33
Grapes 0.32
Apples 0.31
Pears 0.22
Watermelon 0.18
Peaches 0.15
Honeydew 0.12

Many fruits like apples and watermelon aren’t anything special, but pomegranates and kiwis – to name a few – are great sources of antioxidants.

Grains

In general, grains aren’t great for getting antioxidants or nutrition in general.

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Barley flour 1.09
Oat flour 0.5
Corn tortillas 0.48
Oatmeal, instant 0.46
Oatmeal, old fashioned, uncooked 0.37
Wheat bread 0.34
Bread crumbs 0.32
White bread 0.3
Bulgur 0.2
Spaghetti 0.12
Bagels 0.11
Oatmeal, old fashioned, boiled 0.11
Couscous 0.06
Rice 0.05

Barley flour does have a decent amount, but typical white bread or oats only have a bit of antioxidants. 

They will help get you to your daily target, but probably shouldn’t be your main source.

One interesting note: It appears that cooking reduces antioxidant content. Compare the old fashioned oatmeal (uncooked)to the boiled old fashioned (both were Quaker brand). The antioxidants went way down because we’re measuring by weight, and oats absorb a lot of water.

Legumes

Beans exhibit a similar trend seen in grains – cooking reduces antioxidants by weight because legumes absorb a lot of water.

It’s part of the reason why it’s hard to eat more than a few hundred grams of dried beans in a day.

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Pinto beans, dried 1.18
Lentils, green 1
Soy beans 0.99
Kidney beans, dried 0.81
Navy beans, dry 0.57
Black eye beans 0.5
Edamame 0.47
Kidney beans, canned 0.27
Peas 0.26
Lentils, red 0.23
Chickpeas 0.22
Pinto beans, cooked 0.19
Navy beans, cooked 0.11
Tofu 0.09

Legumes have a decent amount of antioxidants, but considering that it’s hard to eat a ton of them, it’s probably won’t be your main source (but could play a good part).

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds in general don’t have too much in the way of antioxidants.

The exception is walnuts, which for some reason have a ton.

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Walnuts 13.13
Pistachios 1.43
Flaxseed, ground 1.13
Hazelnuts 0.94
Pine nuts 0.71
Cashews 0.66
Peanut butter (Skippy) 0.66
Almonds 0.53
Brazil nuts 0.47
Macadamia nuts 0.44
Peanuts 0.35
Sesame seeds 0.3

Aside from walnuts, the rest of these have relatively decent amounts, but also a lot of calories, so it can be hard to fit a lot of these into your diet.

Spices and Herbs

If you looked at the best overall vegan foods for antioxidants at the top, it’s no surprise that most dried spices have a ton of antioxidants.

I included some “fresh” herbs as well so we can compare the dried versions.

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Allspice 101.52
Thyme, dried 63.13
Oregano, dried 40.3
Nutmeg, dried 33
Cinnamon, dried 17.65
Turmeric, dried 15.68
Basil, dried 12.31
Ginger, dried 11.31
Cumin, dried 10.3
Curry, powder 9.98
Paprika, dried 8.6
Parsley, dried 7.43
Cayenne pepper, dried 5.38
Pepper, black, dried 4.54
Coriander, leaves, dried 2.84
Thyme, fresh 2.16
Basil, fresh 0.82
Garlic, dried 0.8

Thyme goes from about 63 mmol per 100g when dried to 2.16 when fresh.

There’s no way to eat 100 grams of a dried spice, so while they’re good sources to help you reach your daily target, they can’t be the only source.

Vegetables

Some vegetables suck for antioxidants, while others are great.

Let’s take a look at the data:

Product Antioxidant Content (mmol/100g)
Artichoke, boiled 3.89
Pepper, red, cooked 1.64
Beet 1.41
Broccoli, cooked 1
Spinach 1
Pepper, red 0.91
Cabbage, red 0.8
Brussels sprout 0.74
Potatoes, red, cooked 0.45
Potatoes, white, cooked 0.43
Avocado 0.41
Asparagus 0.36
Cauliflower 0.34
Onion, yellow 0.26
Pepper, green 0.26
Leek 0.25
Mushroom 0.25
Potatoes, red 0.22
Yam 0.22
Lettuce, romaine 0.21
Potatoes, white 0.19
Lettuce, iceberg 0.17
Tomatoes 0.16
Radishes 0.12
Cabbage 0.1
Celery 0.06
Pumpkin 0.05
Cucumber 0.04
Carrots 0.03

You’ll notice that the opposite of what happens for grains and beans happens here. Cooking a vegetable, for example red peppers, actually increases the amount of antioxidants per weight.

That’s just because water comes out of the vegetable during cooking, it didn’t actually gain any magical antioxidants.

Overall, many vegetables have a decent amount of antioxidants, but not an amazing amount. The good news is that it’s pretty much impossible to overeat vegetables, so they can provide a decent chunk of your RDA.

Overall Summary of the Best Vegan Antioxidants

Let’s summarize all these tables with one last table!

Food Type Level of Antioxidants Calories/Filling
Berries High Low
Chocolate High High
Oils and Fats Low High
Fruits Medium Low
Grains Low Medium
Legumes Medium Medium
Nuts and Seeds Medium High
Spices and Herbs High Low
Vegetables Medium Low

I included the last column as a reminder that a food with a decent amount of antioxidants isn’t that useful if you can only eat a couple grams per day.

On the other hand, you can pretty much eat all the berries and vegetables that you’d like to get antioxidants and still be healthy.

The overall takeaway is that these should be your main sources of antioxidants while on a vegan diet:

  • Berries
  • Chocolate in small amounts
  • Fruits
  • Spices and herbs
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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