Antioxidant foods can protect against heart disease and cancer, high blood pressure and the effects of aging. They also help prevent inflammation and enhance immune function and are vital for our well being. Nutrients such as vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, lutein, lycopene, coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid and flavonoids are among the many antioxidants. Hundreds of known antioxidant compounds are found in food. The antioxidant content of fruit & veg are the main reason why we are encouraged to eat our 5 + a day!
My top antioxidant-rich foods are:
Small red beans such as kidney beans and pinto beans are rich in antioxidants, as well as protein and fibre. Replacing meat with beans a couple of times a week is a great source of protein as well as antioxidants. Include them in soups and salads as well as main dishes.
Berries, including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and red currants, are especially rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Eat a handful of berries every day. You can include them in porridge, muesli and salads. Eat berries instead of high calorie desserts and use them to make smoothies for breakfast or for snacks with plain probiotic yoghurt.
Plums and prunes, red grapes and raisins, oranges, cherries, apricots and apples are also good choices because of their high antioxidant levels. Including berries, eat 3-4 servings of raw fruit a day.
Kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnip and other cruciferous vegetables not only contain antioxidant vitamins and minerals, they contain valuable fibre and can help prevent cancer.
Colorful red, orange and purple vegetables contain a variety of antioxidants, especially tomatoes, red peppers, beetroot, sweet potato, aubergine and carrots. Not forgetting leafy greens, especially spinach. Aim for five servings of vegetables every day, in a variety of colors. Juices and smoothies are a great way of getting extra servings in.
Herbs & Spices:
Even the seasoning you choose can provide antioxidants. Garlic and ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, oregano, rosemary and parsley are all top of my list for antioxidant content. They can be included in every meal. Although you may eat them in smaller quantities than other antioxidant rich foods, they are concentrated so still provide plenty of protection.
Tea, Red Wine & Chocolate:
Green tea contains the antioxidant polyphenol. Some scientists believe that polyphenols may be amongst the most cancer protective compounds ever discovered, protecting cells from damage and boosting the body’s own production of antioxidant enzymes. One of my favourite teas, Rooibos tea also contains very high levels of antioxidants. There are so many great herbal teas on the market today but just be careful with some of the fruit teas as they may contain hidden sugars.
Red wine, like red grapes, contains the antioxidant resveratrol, and drunk in moderation, can offer protection against heart disease and certain cancers.
70% dark chocolate, contains the antioxidant; procyanidin. Eating 1oz of dark chocolate or mixing raw cocoa powder into a drink or smoothie makes a healthy snack.
Whole grains such as quinoa, oats and brown rice provide antioxidants, minerals, fibre and protein. Choose whole grain breads, pasta, crackers and rice with meals in place of the refined variety.
Almonds and walnuts are especially nutritious. Eat about 1 oz. of nuts a day, a small handful, preferably raw or dry-roasted.
Olive oil (and olives), walnut oil, wheat germ oil, coconut oil not only contain antioxidants themselves, but they also help you absorb fat soluble antioxidant vitamins in other foods such as Vitamin A, D E and K. Just remember to use them for salad dressings and not for cooking with.
Olive Oil and coconut oil are the exceptions here and are super for cooking. Just a separate note on Coconut oil: It is the best oil to cook with. It does not degrade at high temperatures and has many health benefits. It can also be blended into a delicious and healthy dark chocolate milkshake. Buy extra Virgin coconut oil from your local health shop. Some supermarkets also stock it. Even though it is called an oil, it is actually solid at room temperature and turns into a liquid oil when heated.