When it comes to healthy food sources, we have been hearing a lot about antioxidants or phytochemicals. In fact, the campaign on eating more fruits and vegetables ride on the growing fame of antioxidants, which are believed to be disease fighters, immune boosters, and even anti-aging elements.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are products of naturally occurring processes in our bodies. They are also called phytochemicals that fight free radicals from damaging cells and further promoting the growth of cancer. Furthermore, antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory properties that also reduce the risk of developing arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, allergies, heart disease, and even cancer. In order to ensure our health, we need to eat anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food sources.
What are the anti inflammatory and antioxidant food sources?
The list of healthy foods is extensive. It is a sure sign that everything we really need to be healthy is offered by the good earth. However, we shall focus more on the common sources of inflammation-reducing antioxidants, e.g. carotenoids, vitamin k and E, bioflavonoids, and polyphenols, which prevent inflammation and inhibit free radical development. Know that free radicals develop when we are under stress or when exposed to harmful elements like pollution or even sunlight. All these elements – stress, pollution and the sun we cannot avoid, but we can still emerge healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercises.
What should I eat to be healthy?
Heed mother’s counsel: Eat your vegetables to grow strong and healthy.
Vegetables top the list of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food sources because they contain flavonoids and carotenoids. Infuse in your diet dark leafy green veggies like spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens or Kale, which should be lightly cooked for optimal benefits. Vary your dishes with a big portion of cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Combine with other nutritious veggies like carrots, peas, onions, beets, squashes, and raw salad greens.
- Sweet potato especially the kind with purple flesh is rich with anthocyanins and contains the highest antioxidants among the potato variety. This is a good choice to protect you from degenerative diseases. Also, the red variety has lycopene, which has significant antioxidant capacities particularly 1/3 antioxidant activity of glutathione.
- Cooked Asian mushrooms (shiitake, enokidake, maitake, oyster and wild) are known to enhance immunity functions, which you need to fight diseases.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has wonderful merits.
- Berries like blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries along with other fruits like peaches, oranges, nectarines, red grapes, pink grapefruit, pomegranates, plums, pears, and apples have chlorogenic acid, which reduces oxidation of bad cholesterol. Cranberries, in particular, have anti-inflammatory properties that treat urinary tract infections. Make sure you buy fruits that are in season as well as the organic ones if readily available. Moreover, varying the colors of the fruits you eat for optimal benefits.
- Grape juice is the best option to reduce the risk of a heart disease. However, grapes have sugar so 1-2 glasses a day would be ideal.
Who says chocolate is bad for you?
- Dark chocolate contains polyphenols. Make sure you consume chocolate with 70% pure cocoa or else you will just get the bad effects on your waistline, which will outweigh any benefits you hope to get.
What do you want? Coffee, tea or me?
- Coffee has antioxidants, whether caffeinated or not. You may want to skip the whip and cream, though.
- Tea either green, white or oolong teas are rich in catechins, another antioxidant that can limit inflammation. Make sure you invest in high-quality tea and properly brewed for great taste and optimal health benefits.
Spices provide the kick in our meal, but also a kick of essential antioxidants.
- Be generous with your herbs and spices like curry powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger, basil, rosemary, cinnamon, thyme, and chili peppers for essential antioxidants. In fact, the more chili peppers you use, the more you will get capsaicin, which inhibits neuropeptide often associated with inflammatory properties.
Go for good protein and its alternatives.
- Fish and seafood like the wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, and black cod have omega 3 fats, which has strong anti-inflammatory capacities.
- Other sources of protein like high-quality natural cheese and yogurt and enriched eggs with Omega 3 are recommended. For chicken, go for organic and free range chicken particularly hens with flax meal feeds.
- Soy foods fight cancer has isoflavones. Go for whole soy foods like tofu, tempeh, soy nuts, soymilk, and edamame.
- Beans and legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and black eyed peas are high in folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and soluble fiber. Cook your beans well or better yet make them into a puree like hummus.
To get the full health benefits of these anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food sources, make your meal varied. Research has not fully figured out the amount we need to eat per food group, but it is suggested that phytochemicals like antioxidants are harnessed optimally from a combination of various kinds of food sources.