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Green tea has long been touted for its health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and weight loss, and it’s all thanks to naturally occurring chemicals found in the tea plant called catechins.
Catechins are a class of flavonoids – plant-based chemicals that help protect plants from environmental toxins, repair damage, and give certain foods, such as wine, tea and chocolate, their color and taste. They’ve also been found to have powerful antioxidant effects in people.
You don’t have to drink green tea all day to get the benefits of catechins. There are other varieties of tea rich in these flavonoids – you can find catechins in black tea, too – but if tea in general doesn’t tantalize your taste buds, there are plenty of other ways to soak up this super antioxidant.
Here are nine additional foods that are chock-full of catechins.
Apples are a rich source of phytochemicals (or “plant-based” chemicals), including catechins. This fruit has been linked to positive health benefits like inhibiting cancer cell growth, reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and lowering your risk of diabetes. The largest concentration of catechins lives within the apple’s skin, so skip the peeler to be sure you’re getting the good stuff.
Try It: Apples can be surprisingly versatile. If you love steak tacos, try our Steak Tacos with Apples & Cilantro for a fruity, flavorful twist. They also make a fantastic roasted side dish – just try our Roasted Apples & Brussels Sprouts with Shiitake Bacon. Or, turn skin-on apples into an indulgent dessert with our Stuffed Apples Au Jus. It’s sweet but totally good for you.
Blackberries contain roughly 37 milligrams of catechins for every 100 grams (or 3/4 cup). That’s more than 14 times the same amount of brewed green tea! Fruits lose their catechins when processed, however, so be sure to munch on fresh, raw blackberries for the full effect.
Blueberries, cranberries and raspberries store catechins as well, but blackberries are the top pick when it comes to catechin concentration. When in doubt, the darker the berry the more catechins it has.
Try It: Get your blackberry fill with this Blackberry Pomegranate Chicken recipe. Or, make blackberries the star of breakfast with our Honeydew & Blackberry Bowl with Basil & Lime Drizzle. You can even take a basic grilled cheese to the next level with our Grilled Fontina & Blackberry Sandwiches.
3. Dark Chocolate
Who doesn’t love dark chocolate? Thanks to its catechin content, dark chocolate is a healthy choice. It’s been shown to benefit your heart by lowering blood pressure and improving vascular function. There are roughly 3.6 milligrams of catechins for every ounce of dark chocolate (the recommended daily serving), so savoring a small bite every day could be even more beneficial than a mug of green tea.
Try It: Treat yourself to some dark chocolate in your favorite form, like a bite-sized chocolate bar or peanut butter cup! Or, you can make one of our delicious chocolate recipes. Or, add it to another sweet treat like cookies – our Coconut Macaroons with Dark Chocolate and Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Tahini Cookies are great choices.
4. Red Wine
Red wine gets its catechin concentration from the fermented grapes used to make it, and just like other fruits, the darker the better. Red wine can contain anywhere from 7 to 24 milligrams of catechins per cup – but those benefits don’t extend to white wine, which holds little to no catechins.
The overall antioxidant effect of red wine has been linked to reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and inhibiting blood clots. Consuming too much alcohol can harm your health, however, so be sure to drink in moderation. According to the Mayo Clinic, that means one 5-ounce glass of wine a day for healthy adult women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two glasses a day for men age 65 and younger.
Try It: You can drink red wine, but there are also plenty of ways to cook with it. Try our Red Wine Glazed Chicken recipe or Red Wine Steak with Caramelized Vegetables. Or, turn it into a salad dressing – Curtis Stone’s Panzanella with Grilled Bread, Tomatoes, Basil, Arugula and Red Wine Vinaigrette is a great example.
Cherries’ antioxidant effects have been linked to the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other inflammatory diseases. They’re also packed with potassium, fiber and vitamin C, and register low on the glycemic index, making them a perfect treat to tame your sweet tooth. They contain roughly 1.3 milligrams of catechins for every 3/4 cup.
Try It: Enjoy these Dark Chocolate Cherry Drops or make a batch of Cherry Chocolate Almond Clusters to satisfy your sweet tooth. Or, start your day with a serving of cherries and other good-for-you fruits in our Cherry Cheesecake Smoothie Bowl.
Much like green tea, guava leaves are loaded with catechins and other antibiotic properties. In fact, guava leaves can be steeped into a tea and used for a variety of medicinal uses, including as an anti-inflammatory and an antidiarrheal. In addition to its leaves, the pulp of the guava fruit has more vitamin C than a pineapple, more potassium than a banana, is full of fiber, and contains lycopene, which can protect the skin against UV rays and prevent cardiovascular damage.
Try It: Guava is a fruit that’s delicious to enjoy on its own. But you can also include it in smoothies, smoothie bowls, top your yogurt with its slices and even add it to salads.
Next to apples, pears are one of the most commonly consumed forms of catechins among adults. And while they ring in with only 0.3 milligrams of catechins for every 3/4 cup, they still offer some great health benefits associated with the antioxidant. In one study, pear consumption was linked with easing the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Try It: Start your morning with this Pear & Maple French Toast Casserole, or make pears into a creamy smoothie with our Ginger Pear Smoothie recipe. Pears can also be a great addition to a lunch or dinner salad – just try our Tuscan Kale & Roasted Pear Salad with Buttermilk Dressing. And if you’re craving something sweet, try combining the catechins in dark chocolate and pears together by making our Black Grape & Pear Crumble with Chocolate.
8. Fava Beans
Fava beans are a super source for catechins, storing higher concentrations per serving than apples, pears and cherries combined. Raw fava beans have twice as many catechins as the cooked version. If raw favas don’t sound tempting, the cooked beans still boast anywhere from 8 to 12 milligrams of catechins per 3/4 cup.
Try It: Make fava beans a star on your plate with our Divine Tuscan Bean Spread. Or, turn them into an amazing dip that works for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even snacking with Nadia Irshaid Gilbert’s Ful Mudammas.
9. Sweet & Purple Potatoes
Just like our berry and grape friends, potatoes benefit from higher catechin concentrations the darker their flesh is. It’s been found that purple and red-fleshed potatoes have twice the amount of flavonoids (including catechins) than white potatoes, and three to four times the amount of phenolic acids – another chemical found in plants that have antioxidant properties.
Try It: You can eat purple potatoes alone in our Purple Potato Salad or combine both purple and sweet potatoes in our Purple Sweet Potato Latkes. Plus, there are tons of ways to put sweet potatoes to use – just try our Tex-Mex Loaded Sweet Potatoes, Creamed Spinach-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon or Pulled Barbecue Chicken with Sweet Potatoes & Broccoli.