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The Magical Role of Antioxidants
We hear a lot about how antioxidants are great and all the magical ways we can increase our daily intake by double-dosing that blueberry smoothie. But remind me, do we really know what it all means?
Antioxidants are substances or nutrients found in our bodies that help stop or slow down oxidative damage. Our bodies use oxygen to function and as a result free radicals are produced. These little negative charges bounce around in the body causing all sorts of damage to our cells. This is however, a natural process, and antioxidants clear up the free radicals, helping to reduce the damage.
Unfortunately, nowadays to many people are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and due to the toxicity of our environments its hard to live ‘free-radical free’.
If your looking to increase your overall well-being and feel more energized, simply increase your antioxidant intake and give your body a helping hand.
Might I add, while current research is mixed, some studies are showing that antioxidant supplements reduce the risk of disease, while others have found no benefit. What I believe, if you have a diet rich in mixed fruit and veg – and a high antioxidant profile – one does not need supplements and can thrive on the nourishment of fresh food.
Let’s look at some ways to naturally increase your antioxidant intake:
1. Eat the rainbow!
Antioxidants give color to foods, so imagine all the different colors you see at your market and the potential? For example, eggs with bright orange yolks are high in astaxanthin, an important anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
Now from experience, one does not need to over-excite and grab the exotic super fruit from across the globe. Local fruit has just as much, if not more antioxidant powers to it than one might think. The key here is variety. Switch things up and aim for two or three different colors each day. Juicing plays a wonderful role here in maximizing your antioxidant load through colors of the rainbow.
2. Pay attention to food prep.
How to prepare and cook your vegetables plays a major role in your nutrient intake then you might think. No one is asking you to become a rabbit, although my cousin ate so many raw carrots from the garden one year his fingers began to turn orange! But raw veggies antioxidant content is at its full (aside from tomatoes, which when cooked have a higher lycopene content, a prostate cancer reducing antioxidant).
A few tips for maximizing cooked veg:
– Don’t peel
– Minimize chopping
– Do not pre-soak your veggies
– Cook quickly at high-temp rather than slowly at low-heat
– Steam is the dream! Helps retain nutrients best
– The crunchier the better, chewing is where its at, trust me.
3. Spice it up!
After discovering the flavor herbs and spices can bring to your food there is no turning back! Easily increase your antioxidant intake by adding fresh herbs and non-irradiated spices into the mix. Turmeric in particular is a kung-fu fighting machine when it comes to antioxidants! *Tip* This spice mixes well with cumin, coriander and cinnamon!
Get creative! Mixing chives and dill to yogurt, sprinkling thyme and rosemary on roasted yams and loading your pasta with fresh basil!
4. Drink it up!
You would be surprised at the amount of antioxidants around you. We’re not talking that $10 juice from around the corner, or the jam-packed smoothie you made for lunch. Say hello to the 1-stop-shop glass of goodness:
Green tea, cranberry juice, cherry juice, even coffee and red wine (hello!) are good sources of antioxidants. Again the keys are variety, moderation and balance.
Matcha tea (a type of green tea made from powdered tea leaves) is a particularly rich source of antioxidants, and while this can be an acquired taste, you can get the benefits without the taste simply by adding ½ a teaspoon of the powder to smoothies, yogurts, or your morning cereal.
5. Think before your snack.
A tasty and powerful go-to snack, not only are nuts and seeds a great in-between meal but they are rich in antioxidants. Brazil nuts are loaded with selenium, excellent for brain health, while almonds are great sources of Vitamin-E.
Now let’s get real – from one chocolate lover to another we mustn’t forget this Holy Grail. My best advice is to reach for 70% dark cocoa mass, which can have a positive effect on heart health. A sweet reminder though, moderation people! A square or 2 a day is mighty fine.
Written by Breathe in Life guide and Holistic Nutritionist Meghan Trompetter