01 December 2011

How To Increase Antioxidant Intake



Antioxidants boost your immune system and combat the free radicals that damage your cells. Eating food high in antioxidants is good for your body and brain, and is especially beneficial at this transitional time of the year, when viruses are lurking around. It is important to understand where antioxidants come from - the foods that contain the highest levels of antioxidants are fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes and that is why it is important to include them in your diet.

Image: BelleBotanica

Fruits
Eat raw fruits. There is nothing more refreshing than eating a fresh or dried fruit full with vitamins and antioxidants. Choose deeply colored fruits - rich colors such as reds, purples or black are a sure sign that the fruit is high in polyphenols, which are a known anti-carcinogen. Plums, prunes, all kinds of berries, pomegranates, raisins and oranges have the highest levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals among all fruits.

Vegetables
Add raw vegetables. Vegetables are another tasty source of antioxidants in your diet. Look for intense colors and cut up a colorful seasonal salad to have with your main meal. Kale, eggplants, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, brussels sprout, red bell peppers and onions all have cancer-fighting abilities and extremely low calories. Including vegetables in your daily meals is very important to fighting disease-causing free radicals.

Spices
Spices don't just make your food tastier. They are another important source of polyphenols. The substances in different spices have been found to increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination and now research shows that they contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods. Thyme, oregano and basil are the top spices to use.

Fish
Eating fish three times a week will not only ensure the required amount of omega-3 fatty acids intake but will also add proteins, minerals and antioxidants. Wild caught salmon and trout are two of the best choices you can make. Adding extra virgin oil to the fish is yet another way to increase your daily antioxidant intake.

Beans
Beans are inexpensive and filling, they are low in calories, have no cholesterol and little fat. On the other hand, beans are full of antioxidants, B vitamins, proteins, potassium and fiber, which promote digestive health and relieve constipation. Eating beans may help prevent colon cancer and reduce blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease, researchers say.

Nuts
Recent research on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of nuts have proven that they are not only packed with antioxidants but are also good for our metabolism, heart and can prevent cancer and diabetes. Walnuts and pecans offer the highest concentration levels of antioxidants.

Dark chocolate
There are several beneficial antioxidant compounds found in raw cocoa. The less processing the cocoa undergoes before, the more of these antioxidants remain. Therefore dark chocolate (not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk) is a potent antioxidant, which also lowers high blood pressure, reduces blood clotting and improves blood flow to the heart and brain. Researchers believe that most of the bad effects of eating chocolate are either overstated or entirely false. For example, chocolate also has not been proven to cause cavities or tooth decay. Rather, it helps thwart mouth bacteria and stop dental decay.

Tea, wine and grape juice
Herbal tea is not only a source of antioxidants but different herbs take care of different parts of your body. Add a teaspoon of honey and squeeze some drops of lemon in your tea cup to add antioxidants and vitamin C. Red wine provides a healthy serving of antioxidants and minerals. Consider drinking a cup for dinner. If you are not a fan of wine, have a glass of grape juice. You can't go wrong here, since both come from grapes, which is one of the fruits highest in antioxidants.

Eating foods rich in antioxidants is better than taking large doses of antioxidant supplements, according to the American Heart Association. Foods contain combinations of nutrients that work together, while the antioxidant you choose to take might not be the one best suited for your purpose, or might not work for that purpose without other nutrients.

Which is your favorite source of antioxidants?