To be healthy, people need vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. By protecting cells against the damage of free radicals, antioxidants can help protect serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease, according to the National Institute of Health. Dangerous free radicals can be produced by the body as it breaks down food, or encountered in toxins like cigarette smoke, but a diet with antioxidant-rich vegetables can help combat these killers, leading to better health.
Beans, be they kidney, pinto, lima or another variety, are good sources of antioxidants. Studies at Tufts University show a single cup of red beans contains over 13,000 antioxidants, and black beans, even though lowest in the legume family by the same study, still have over 4,000 antioxidants. Beans are also low in fat and cholesterol, but high in protein and fiber, making them filling, healthy and good for proper digestion. To incorporate beans into a diet, try tossing them in salad, blending them into a dip making them into a main dish like bean enchiladas.
Tomatoes derive their bright red color from the antioxidant lycopene and are one of the best sources of this free-radical fighting nutrient, according to the American Cancer Society. People who consume a diet high in tomatoes "appear in some studies to have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, lung and stomach" says the society, which adds that studies have shown consuming cooked tomatoes is the most beneficial to health. Furthermore, including a healthy fat, like olive oil, with a lycopene source makes it easier for the body to absorb. Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, potassium and other nutrients as well.
A type of cabbage, kale is a green leaf vegetable with curly edges and a study at Tufts University showed that it contains more than 11,000 antioxidants. According to the World's Healthiest Foods website, kale is particularly high in flavonoids and carotenoids, types of antioxidants which are believed to help fight cancer. World's Healthiest Foods also states these groups of antioxidants can help raise the amount of certain nutrients in the blood, such as beta-carotene and lutein, which keep the heart and eyes healthy. Kale is also high in vitamin K and essential fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
The chubby purple eggplant has been shown to contain high amounts of important antioxidants in government tests. The Agricultural Research Service conducted studies that showed eggplants are high in chlorogenic acid, "one of the most powerful antioxidants produced in plant tissues" according to the agency. A type of phenolic compound, chlorogenic acid, among other antioxidants, is produced by vegetables to protect themselves from infection and stress, and Harvard University states these antioxidants prevent cell damage, protect against infection and can help control cholesterol.