Hormesis Diet: Top 10 Bioactive Veggies & Hormesis Foods

Top view of hormesis foods including turmeric, rosemary, garlic, olives, chili peppers, lingonberries, and more.
Spread the love

A hormesis diet is a go-to eating plan that rocks some of nature’s healthiest foods, because according to plant physiology, foods with hormetic compounds like sulforaphane, allicin, capsaicin, to name a few, host slews of bioactive phytochemicals. They’re a powerhouse for human cellular activation.

A lot of people don’t realize that the benefits they get from fasting, saunas, cold plunge, and exercise, all have ‘hormesis’ at their core. That’s because hormesis is a complex physiological reaction. But it gets a little trickier when applying it to foods. I mean how on earth does a food trigger hormesis? Or the benefits of hormesis?

And especially when it’s described like this:

“Hormesis refers to adaptive responses of biological systems to moderate environmental or self-imposed challenges through which the system improves its functionality and/or tolerance to more severe challenges.”

Or this:

“Hormesis encompasses the notion that low levels of stress stimulate or upregulate existing cellular and molecular pathways that improve the capacity of cells and organisms to withstand greater stress.”


So again: What does that have to do with food?

Well according to science, plants that rock biogenesis — another cool reaction — or dietary hormetic compounds, usually both, form the cornerstone of nature’s healthiest foods. They’re polyphenic, phytoactive, and nutrient-dense.

According to one report, “Hormetic pathways activated by phytochemicals may involve kinases and transcription factors that induce the expression of genes that encode antioxidant enzymes, protein chaperones, phase-2 enzymes, neurotrophic factors and other cytoprotective proteins.”

In fact studies have identified “resveratrol, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), curcumin, quercetin, allicin, capsaicin, carnosic acid and sulforaphane” as among the best.

So it’s fairly clear that the top hormesis foods are those with the highest levels of hormetic compounds.

Such as . . .

1. Sprouts

Close on a woman's cupped hands holding succulent sprouts.
Organic sprouts are highly bioactive.

Sprouts are mega powerhouses of nutrients, and especially broccoli sprouts. You may have already heard about sulforaphane (SFN), the hormetic phytochemical concentrated in broccoli’s seeds.

It’s one of the key constituents in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that health experts tout. It’s linked to whole slews of impressive benefits including disease mitigation, reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, dramatic boosts in cellular metabolism and Phase II enzyme expression, and more.

The reason it’s good to get it from sprouts as well as the mature plant is that sulforaphane levels are 10-100 times higher in sprouts. It’s also 10 times higher in raw rather than cooked veggies because SFN is heat sensitive.

Broccoli sprouts contain anywhere from 225 to over 1000 mg. of sulforaphane a cup. I typically freeze the sprouts and add them to smoothies and juices.

They also rock salads, wraps, sandwiches, and other raw foods.

Learn more about sprouts and how to grow them here > Sprouting

Get sprouting jars on Amazon here.

Sprouting Seeds on Amazon

2. Turmeric (Curcumin)

Bowl of turmeric powder surrounded by raw turmeric root.
The curcumin in turmeric is a powerhouse.

Turmeric also makes the list for a hormesis diet because it rocks curcumin, a powerhouse polyphenol compound and anti-inflammatory.

A derivative of the rhizome of Curcuma longa, it boasts an array of notable health benefits including antifungal, antibacterial, anticancer, antimutagen, and antiaging effects.

Studies have shown it curbs inflammation, oxidative stress, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and more.

It’s a key constituent in the family of plant hormetins and a mitochondrial windfall for cells. It works through molecular modulations of enzymes, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and cellular stress response.

It’s also easy to add to your diet as a cooking spice or in supplement form. Highly regarded for its medicinal properties, it’s a go-to worldwide.

Learn more about it here and how it crushed my mom’s arthritis pain.   

Get the powder on Amazon here, the capsules here, the extract here.      

3. Garlic

Close-up of rich colorful garlic bulbs in a wicker basket.
Raw organic garlic is a powerhouse activator.

Hormesis foods are not only intelligent, they’re warriors, and especially garlic. In fact one might call garlic a Commander in Chief.

Recent studies show that garlic and a handful of plants from the cruciferous and allium families can crush cancer cells, and among them garlic leads:

“Of dozens of vegetables, garlic came in first against cancers of the breast, brain, lung, pancreas, prostate, and stomach, and second after leeks against kidney cancer.”

And unlike traditional medicines, garlic is selective. It crushes bad cells and leaves good ones alone.

In addition, “Garlic has also been found to lower blood pressure, regulate cholesterol, stimulate immunity, and improve artery function,” says Dr. Michael Greger, who adds that it even helps prevent the common cold.

Which is primarily due to the hormetic effects of allicin (diallylthiosulfinate) and other bioactives. White and Chinese garlic are the most polyphenol-rich.

Get the supplement on Amazon here, the powder here, the extract here.

4. Olive Leaf

Olive tree leaves against a fencepost in bright sunlight.
Constituents from the olive tree are loaded.

Olive leaf polyphenols are literally stacked with bioactive compounds widely touted by the Mediterranean diet and vegan diets that rock hormetic foods.

The key constituents that fuel the hormetic effects of olive leaf and make it worth eating are called hydroxytyrosol (HT) and oleuropein aglycone (OLE), both of which ramp cell signaling and transcription factors, says one report.

Countless studies support the ability of olive phenols to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, produce gastroprotective, neuroprotective, and antinociceptive effects, eliminate free radicals and offset disease, boost immunity, reduce blood pressure, and more.

One report notes that the phenols in olive leaves are potent free radical scavengers. Another suggests they lower the risk of diabetes and can help you lose weight.

And yet another touts the benefits of olive leaf for combatting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and that’s in addition to reducing the severity and length of the common cold.  

For the most polyphenol-rich olives choose green over black.

Get the supplement on Amazon here, the powder here, the extract here.

5. Dark Chocolate

Top view of chocolate smoothies made with dark chocolate.
Organic dark cacao is packed with bioactive compounds.

Dark chocolate is such a phenomenal antiaging food that longevity researcher David Sinclair includes it in his daily health routine. Must be because it’s so high in bioactive compounds that boost metabolism, arterial function, systemic oxygenation, baseline circulation, the gut microbiome, and more.

According to this report:

“Consumption of cocoa products has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The phytonutrients packed in cocoa powder may lead to lower blood pressure and LDL levels, while boosting HDL levels and immune function. Just one teaspoon of cocoa results in a significant boost in arterial function within hours of consumption. Cocoa intake can also help open up coronary arteries, improve the ability of veins in the eyes to dilate, improve blood flow to the kidneys, lead to improvements in peripheral artery disease, and may even combat the effects of aging.”

Which should come as little surprise with so many health experts touting it. It even rocks resveratrol.

And for the best chocolate ever go organic, unprocessed, dark raw cacao. It has three times more antioxidants than milk chocolate.

Get the powder on Amazon here, the bars here, cocoa syrup here.

6. Green Tea

Close on a girl's hands holding a mug of rich green tea.
Green tea is renowned for its health benefits.

Most folks already know by now that green tea is healthy, and especially Matcha green tea that spawned a trend years back. Well not only is it another key biohack of longevity researchers, it’s one of the healthiest drinks on Earth.

It literally flew off the shelves of my espresso shop when I served it there, and it continues to be a staple in my kitchen in both tea and supplement form.

Here’s why:

Green Tea Benefits

  • Boosts immunity.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Boosts cellular defense.
  • Relives nerve pain.
  • Bolsters arterial function.
  • Improves eye-health.
  • Supports mental health.
  • Mitigates disease.
  • Ramps biogenesis.
  • Nourishes the biome.
  • Stabilizes blood sugar.
  • Upticks metabolism.
  • Promotes longevity.
  • Supports oral health.
  • Burns fat and supports weight loss.
  • Improves athletic performance.
  • Releases antioxidant enzymes.
  • Boosts cognition.
  • Supports the kidneys.
  • Good for hair, skin, and nails.
  • Speeds muscle recovery.
  • Increases endurance. 
  • Supports heart-health.

The primary hormetic compound key to green tea benefits is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), with vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, and more onboard.

Get the powder on Amazon here, the supplement here, the extract here.

7. Rosemary

A woman's hands trimming branches off a rosemary plant.
Rosemary is a top hormesis food.

When it comes to seasoning soups, salads, and a wide array of other popular dishes, most folks have already given rosemary a whirl. It’s a common household spice in pastas, casseroles, veggie sides, potatoes, sauces, stews, wraps, and hors d’oeuvres.

But what really makes rosemary a standout hormetin and go-to energy food is ‘carnosic acid’ — a bioactive compound and phenolic diterpene heavily concentrated in rosemary’s leaves.

For instance one report notes it boosts lipid metabolism and thylakoid membranes — in other words burns fat and gathers light.

Another found it offsets colon cancer in human cells:

“Rosemary polyphenols have shown a vast antiproliferative capacity against colon cancer cells in vitro and in animal models. We have investigated the antitumor activity of a rosemary extract (RE) obtained by using supercritical fluid extraction through its capacity to inhibit various signatures of cancer progression and metastasis such as proliferation, migration, invasion and clonogenic survival. RE strongly inhibited proliferation, migration and colony formation of colon cancer cells regardless their phenotype.”

In addition rosemary rocks vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and over 15 grams of fiber a cup, and that’s on top of 97% DV of vitamin A and whole slews of micronutrients.

It’s a leading hormetic in the world of bioactive plants.

Get the tea on Amazon here, the capsules here, the leaves here.

8. Chili Peppers

Close-up of rich red and green Jalapeno peppers.
The capsaicin in chili peppers is bioactive.

Scientists have long known that spicy foods are healthy, and especially chili peppers, both green and red. They rock the powerhouse one-two punch of ‘capsaicin’ — a supercharged thermal activator.

Studies link capsaicin to reduced blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress. It curbs insulin resistance, improves cholesterol, and offsets disease.

It’s also been shown to mitigate arterial dysfunction, relieve neuro pain, and boost cognition. And it’s a go-to for weight loss, lipid metabolism, and cerebrovascular disease, including dementia.

It’s also cake to add to your diet in foods like salsa, vegan pizza, spicy potatoes, veggie wraps . . .

According to this report:

“Capsaicin, the phytochemical responsible for the spiciness of peppers, has the potential to modulate metabolism via activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) receptors, which are found not only on nociceptive sensory neurons, but also in a range of other tissues.”

The most bioactive compounds in chili peppers are capsaicin, lutein, ferulic acid, sinapic acid, capsanthin, and violaxathin — all major antioxidants.

Get the powder on Amazon here, the capsules here, the extract here.

9. Grapes (Resveratrol)

Sunlight catching a bunch of rich red grapes.
Grape skins are packed with bioactive resveratrol.

Most folks in the health space already know about resveratrol, the bioactive go-to in grapes, grape juice, wine, peanuts, pistachios, cocoa, blueberries, bilberries, cranberries, and dark chocolate.

Its benefits include reduced inflammation, oxidative stress, obesity, heart disease, cancers, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and more. It boosts cognition, helps prevent strokes, and is antiaging.

I first learned of its benefits from a podcast featuring Dr. David Sinclair, an avid fan and daily consumer of resveratrol. He spoke so highly of it I started taking it myself.

Sinclair and colleagues learned in 2003 that resveratrol could “increase cell survival and slow aging in yeast (and later in mice) by activating a “longevity” gene known as SIRT1.”

According to this report:

“Resveratrol has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, glucose and lipid regulatory, neuroprotective, and cardiovascular protective effects, therefore, can protect against diverse chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, liver diseases, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.” 

One cup of red table grapes provides between 0.24 and 1.25 milligrams of resveratrol, though some folks (raising my hand) take supplements.

Get the powder on Amazon here, the supplement here, the extract here.

10. Lingonberries

Wild lingonberry bush sporting rich plump berries.
Lingonberries are berry loaded.

Another bioactive powerhouse closely related to blueberries and cranberries is lingonberries (vaccinium vitis-idaea), also called partridgeberry, mountain cranberry, cowberry, foxberry, and redberry. They grow wild in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Canada, and around the world.

They’re a top hormesis food and considered one of the most antioxidant-rich berries, which obviously amounts to tons of healthy benefits including “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer activities,” says one report.

They rock quercetin, along with other bioactive compounds that make them exceptionally rich. They’re heat sensitive, however, so best eaten raw.

Most Antioxidant-Rich Berries

According to this report:

“The ORAC [antioxidant power] value for fresh lingonberry (203 µMTE/g) was the highest compared to others tested berries. The ORAC value of the frozen fruit was slightly lower and reached 160 µMTE/g. In canned berry products, the ORAC value decreased by half to 120 µMTE/g for canned juice and 99 µMTE/g for canned fruit. After heat-processing techniques, a considerable loss in antioxidant potential was observed. The ORAC values for sauce, syrup, and jam decreased to 51, 44, and 36 µMTE/g, respectively. When lingonberries were dehydrated, the ORAC values skyrocketed. . . when fresh berries are not available, dried fruit consumption should be recommended as an essential source of high antioxidant levels in each gram of product.”

Get the berries on Amazon here, the jam here, the liquid here, and the powder here.

You can also tap it here by clicking below 👇 — (10.00 off your first order with email & free shipping on $50):

Hum Nutrition Arctic Repair supplement surrounded by lingonberries and green leaves featuring wild lingonberry seed oil for skin.

Another powerhouse is Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat — learn more here.

Keep reading!

Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat Banana Bread 

Vegan Buckwheat Crepes Recipe

HTB Buckwheat Pancakes

Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat Waffles 

HTB Blueberry Muffins

HT Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

HTB Buckwheat Pizza Dough

Vegan Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat Porridge

Himalayan Tartary Sourdough Bread

HTB Homemade Bread

Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat Benefits

Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat for Weight Loss

Vegan Diet Plan

The medical and health topics covered on the Plate of Grass website and blog have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to prevent or cure any disease. This article and its content is presented ‘as is’ for informational purposes only.