Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods that prevent or slow the damage to our body caused by what is known as ‘free radicals’ which are thought to be damaging to cells and tissues. Health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer are among those said to be contributed by the oxidative damage that occurs during energy conversion from molecules to fuel. In a recent study conducted by health researchers in London , it has been proven that five (5) servings of fruits and vegetables actually reduce the risk of stroke by a whopping 25 percent! Aside from this, antioxidants are also said to slow down the process of aging. This is why antioxidants have also found their way in various over-the-counter health and beauty products .
But why depend solely on manufactured health supplements when you can obtain antioxidants from a healthy combination of whole, real foods?
To start off, here are some fruits and vegetables proven to have healthy doses of antioxidants:
- Berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and blackberries are all antioxidant-rich foods. Berries are full of fibre, minerals and vitamins, and loaded with healing antioxidants. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are rich in antioxidants that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries contain ellagic acid, a plant compound that combats carcinogens . Additional antioxidant-rich choices include apples, cherries, pears, plums, tomatoes, kiwi, mango and papaya. The antioxidants found in these fruits include vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lycopene among others.
Yummy food tips: Add raspberries to your bowl of cereals or stir into your favourite vanilla yogurt. You may also add whole blueberries to salads with a little honey, balsamic vinegar and black pepper to taste.
- Whole grains. Make sure your favourite morning bowl of cereal is made from whole-grain as this particular variety is an excellent source of Vitamin E – a potent antioxidant that plays a role in preventing cancer. In addition, the antioxidants present in grains can boost immunity, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, treat and possibly prevent arthritis, prevent sunburn and treat male infertility.
Yummy food tips: Try adding chopped parsley and scallions to a serving of cooked bulgur wheat or add raisins, dried apricots and minced basil to a serving of brown rice.
- Tea. One of the world’s most favourite beverages has been shown to prevent a number of degenerative diseases and significantly reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and other diseases. Good news to all black tea lovers: Though it was originally thought that green tea had more antioxidants than your favourite black, recent studies suggest that they are equally beneficial.
Yummy food tips: Try poach salmon in an infusion of green tea and ginger or boil soba noodles in green tea and toss with sesame seeds and a dash of toasted sesame oil.
- Greens. According to a research done by the Cleveland Clinic, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard greens contain antioxidants called carotenoids. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, sweet potatoes, artichokes and red and white potatoes with peels are also high in antioxidants. Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, black beans and red beans are all high in antioxidant vitamin E.
Lastly, and this may come as a surprise to most, dark chocolate is also said be rich in antioxidants, containing more of the protective substances per serving than most fruits and vegetables, according to the Mayo Clinic.
**For full stories, grab a copy of Total Fitness January to February 2011 issue in bookstores and newsstands near you.