You can combat aging and improve your health by adding some of the top antioxidant foods to your diet. Antioxidants have received a lot of attention in recent years. Almost every “cure”, “solution”, and “prevention” includes the advice to eat more antioxidants.
The good news is that it is really a very easy protocol to follow. You don't have to eat anything weird. You don't have to avoid any major food groups (unless you consider cookies a food group).
In fact, you don't even have to do any fancy cooking because many of the top antioxidant foods taste the best when eaten raw.
Basically, antioxidants are substances that prevent damage caused by free radicals. What are free radicals? Well, we could get into a very scientific discussion about cellular oxidation and chemical bonding, but to put it simply, free radicals are unfriendly molecules that want to attack and destroy healthy molecules.
The damage caused to your cells and tissues can result in accelerated aging, inflammation, and disease.
We all have a certain amount of free radicals in our bodies due to things like environmental pollutants, smoking or unhealthy eating. It's when they become excessive that problems will arise. So, how do we keep these nasty predators under control?
Enter the superheroes known as antioxidants. These powerhouses can neutralize the work of free radicals, slow the aging process, and reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease or cancer.
Antioxidants are in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant compounds) such as carotenoids, polyphenols, or flavonoids. Although fruits and veggies are the most obvious source of antioxidants, almost every food group contains antioxidant-rich options. So, no, you don't have to live on blueberries and kale (but these are excellent choices).
There is a war going on in your body and when it comes to giving your immune system the ammunition it needs to keep you healthy, you have a very long list of tasty foods to choose from.
Supplement are great, but you can't pack the same power into a pill. Real, whole food is always best.
Berries are some of the best sources of top antioxidant foods. Any berry will do although the highest concentrations are found in blueberries, raspberries, black currents, and goji berries. Frozen are just as good as fresh, so you can eat them year round. These little superfoods contain plant chemicals called proanthocyanidins which have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. New research has also shown that the Quercetin in berries may improve vision, reduce blood sugar levels, fight inflammation, lower cholesterol, and improve some skin conditions. Besides being high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants, berries are also a good source of fiber.
Besides berries, there are a lot of other fruits that provide a good dose of antioxidants. Most fruit is high in bioflavonoids, a type of antioxidant found in plants that give fruits and veggies their colorful tones. The darker or more vibrant the color, the more antioxidants they contain. So, choose deeply pigmented options such as pomegranate, plums, red grapes, cherries, cantaloupe, oranges, and red apples. Many fruits are rich in beta carotene and zeaxanthin, two substances that have been shown to benefit eye health
Virtually all veggies contain some level of antioxidants, but there are a few that stand out. Broccoli is one of the most nutritious foods available, containing more vitamin C than an orange and more calcium than a glass of milk. This vegetable is also rich in sulforaphane, a compound that may reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer. The riboflavin, Vitamin B6, calcium and iron in spinach will give your immune system a powerful boost and help keep your skin and hair healthy.
Kale will provide more than a full day's requirement of Vitamin A, C, and K. Many vegetables, particularly dark green choices, contain a substance called Lutein which offers great benefits for your eyes, helping to protect them from free radicals and sun damage. Other good vegetable choices include artichokes, red cabbage, asparagus, red leaf lettuce, and bell peppers (especially the red and orange ones).
Yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit, but they are such a rich source of the top antioxidants that they deserve their own category. This superfood is the highest source of lycopene, a very powerful cancer-fighting substance. Keep in mind that lycopene needs fat for proper absorption, so don't be afraid to add olive oil, avocado, or organic butter to your tomato dishes. Besides lycopene, tomatoes are also very high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
Nuts are a great source of antioxidants, but they also provide protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Pecans have the highest antioxidant power, followed by walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds.
Nuts should be eaten in moderation if you are trying to lose weight, but don't shy away from them altogether because these tasty morsels are a great way to lower “bad” cholesterol, raise “good” cholesterol, and keep your cardiovascular system running efficiently.
Green tea contains a high concentration of Catechin Polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that has been linked to cancer prevention. Studies have also shown that green tea may increase weight loss, lower the risk of heart disease, and improve cholesterol levels.
Almost all beans contain antioxidants, but the red and black ones are definitely the best. Not only do dark colored beans contain iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, thiamin, phosphorus, and folic acid, but they are also a great source of protein and fiber. They can help protect against heart disease and cancer, and recent studies have shown that red beans may also help balance blood sugar and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Plus, they will satisfy your hunger! So add a few to your salads, stir-fries, or veggie dishes.
Packed with beta-carotene, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins B6, C, and E, sweet potatoes are among the most powerfully nutritious foods in the world. They have been shown to slow down the aging process, so you definitely don't want to avoid this carb!
For centuries, honey has been revered for its antibacterial and anti-viral properties. But, this sweetener, in its most natural form is packed full of antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as iodine, sulfur, manganese, potassium, and vitamins E, D, C, and K. If you need a little sugar, this is your best option.
When comparing pound for pound, spices contain the highest concentration of antioxidants. Although you are more likely to eat a pound of apples than a pound of herbs, these everyday seasonings can pack an antioxidant punch, even in small amounts. Cloves tops the list, followed by oregano, rosemary, turmeric, thyme, cinnamon, sage, and vanilla.
Of course, we can't forget garlic. For years, this pungent herb has been touted as a miracle preventative, and with good reason. It contains selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. It has been shown to be effective at lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol, chelating heavy metals, and preventing cancer. So, forget bland cooking and use those herbs and spices liberally!
You are probably doing a happy dance about this one, right? But, don't get too excited unless you are a fan of dark chocolate – the darker the better. If you are used to the ultra-sweet, fat and sugar laden options, then dark chocolate may take some getting used to. It's an acquired taste - but once you acquire it, you will never go back!
Pure, unsweetened cocoa powder or baking chocolate contain the highest concentrations of antioxidants, but that is a little much even for the most dedicated dark chocolate fan. Most nutritionists say that anything over 75% is good. If you can adapt your taste buds, dark chocolate can give you the same advantages as green tea. Hmmm.....If you drink a cup of tea with your treat, will you double the benefits?
Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined ones can lower your risk of many chronic diseases. Whole grains contain an antioxidant known as phytic acid, which helps protect against liver, colon, and breast cancer.
Some of the top antioxidant foods are also the tastiest. So, load up on these free radical, disease-fighting nutrients and begin enjoying the benefits of a healthy, energetic, and toxic-free body.
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