Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Antioxidant Foods List

Healthy eating is the key to feeling great, and antioxidant foods should be part of every nutritious diet. Many people have heard of antioxidants, but rarely can they explain what they are or what types of fruits and vegetables contain high volumes of them. However they really aren't that mysterious - at the most basic level antioxidants are vitamins and minerals. They can be found in foods high in vitamin A, C and E as well as beta carotene rich foods such as carrots.

Antioxidants play a crucial role in your overall nutrition and have been known to help in reducing high blood pressure, preventing cancer, fighting off heart disease and strengthening your immune system. This is important because many of the aforementioned ailments, and other degenerative diseases are known to be expedited by the oxidation of healthy cells. I always recommend that you get your vitamins through food and drink instead of supplements, but if it is difficult for you to eat properly its always a good idea to help your body out with an antioxidant supplement.

Foods that are antioxidant rich aid in the prevention of oxidation reactions (clever name, huh?). Let's start with the concept of oxidation reactions. These occur frequently, and when such reactions take place the molecule that undergoes the reaction will lose an electron in its valence shell. If you can think back to HS chemistry you may remember that the valence shell is the outer electron shell of the atom - for the most part, the atom will want 8 electrons in this shell to be 'happy' or stable.

So back to the reactions... The loss of the electron due to the oxidation process will produce what are known as free radicals - molecules that have unpaired electrons in their outer shell, which makes them unstable and highly reactive. These are the 'bad guys' that can cause a chain reaction that leads to the damaging of healthy cells. Antioxidants essentially take the place of would-be healthy cells and help to end these chain reactions.

Measuring the amount of antioxidant power in your foods is not as simple as one might think, but the standard metric is oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC).

Now that we've got through a simple chemistry lesson, let's take a look at this healthy antioxidant foods list along with quick tips that you can use to incorporate these foods into your diet:

tomatoesTomatoes

The antioxidant rich agent in this food is lycopene. I chose to put this first on the list of healthy antioxidants because unlike the majority of other antioxidant food, the cooking process actually enhances the health effects. Usually raw foods and unprocessed foods are the healthier option, but this is quite the convenient exception since pasta is a staple meal in American (and obviously Italian) diets. So feel good about using either raw or processed tomato products, such as sauces, pastes and ketchup.

acai berries Acai Berries

I'll discuss all other berries next, but I felt the need to put acai berries second on this antioxidant list due to their relatively unknown status in the U.S. If you're an observant shopper, you probably have seen acai juice products hitting the market, but they are generally a little more expensive and no where near as common as most other exotic fruit juices. The actual acai berry does not ship well unless they are freeze dried soon after harvesting. These berries grow wild in the palm trees of the Amazon rain forest, so this is no easy task.

While I can't say I've tasted the acai berry, I've had several juices and they are quite delicious. I've read somewhere that the taste is described as a mixture between blueberries and chocolate, and I have to say this is fairly accurate. I don't think it's a strong chocolate taste, but it is much more rich than you're normal berry juice.

If you are a smart shopper, you can find worthwhile products online - just be aware that there are lots of acai scams, just do some research and read fine print before you make any purchases. But if you can get your hands on this fruit, I highly recommend it because they are one of the best in terms of antioxidants.

Mixed BerriesBerries

I don't know if any one fruit generality can compete with berries for antioxidant power. Along with acai berries, we have blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries... it's all good! And if you're looking for an easy way to get a cup or two of fruit into your body quickly, grab an immersion blender and whip up a fruit smoothie with some orange juice (another healthy choice with antioxidant power).

Chinese Apple - Pomegranate Pomegranates

Also known as the chinese apple, this super fruit has provided beneficial nutrients and antioxidants for thousands of years. Initial studies have shown that drinking pomegranate juice can help to reduce blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular and heart disease. More research is needed to prove these arguments, however everyone can agree that adding this to your diet will give you an energy boost. Pomegranate juice, such as POM wonderful, is a little bit expensive but the juice is very sour and concentrated so you can use it sparingly or mix with other fruit beverages for a cool and refreshing drink.

Kale and Leafy Greens Dark Green Vegetables

Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, Sprouts... All solid options. These are probably the hardest to incorporate into your kid's diet (or maybe even your own!). One thing I like to do is add these into a one-dish meal instead of as a side dish. For example, put spinach or small slices of broccoli into your pasta dishes. I personally love broccoli by itself, but I find this is a great way to get spinach into my diet.

Another easy way to sneak these super foods into your body is in the form of a smoothie! You can mask the flavor with a sweeter fruit, such as a granny smith apple, but you still retain the vitamins and nutrients of the green.


Red beans Beans

How about a nice bowl of chili? You'd really get a punch of antioxidant power with both kidney beans and tomato sauce in a single dish. Black beans, red beans and pinto beans are also good varieties. Not only do these give you antioxidant benefits, but they are also high in fiber and protein which will help to fill you up with good calories.

red wine Red Wine

This is probably the most well known antioxidant drink, and it is definitely good for you in moderation. This is also a nice pairing with tomato based dishes. The red grapes that make up the red wine are the source of nutrition for this drink.

Green Tea Green Tea

In terms of antioxidant power versus caloric content, this has to rank #1. That's because there's basically no calories (unless of course you add sugar and cream).

Dark Chocolate Dark Chocolate

Here is your option for indulgence, but again, in moderation. I love dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate, so I was pretty happy to hear there are some health benefits to eating this delectable treat.


Hopefully this list of antioxidant foods will give you a jump start to including antioxidant rich foods in your diet. While this list is not entirely comprehensive, there are several easy to obtain and delicious foods that you should pick up your next visit to the grocery store. Like I mentioned before, start off simple by adding a few ingredients to your daily intake, and in the long run you will have transformed to a mostly healthy diet that will aid in losing weight and a greater sense of well-being.

Here's to healthy eating and fighting the good fight against free radicals.

Sources
http://ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/8228/1/IND43635097.pdf
http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/ORAC/ORAC_R2.pdf

3 comments:

  1. Very nice article, however if you can add lots of thumbnail or small pictures of those food they will speak more for themselves and easy to remember. A big combined picture of all will be a great job. I am a heart patient and was looking for reversal of heart diseases, and Indian substitutes for the items generally recommended for.

    thanks,

    anilda

    ReplyDelete
  2. Unavailable references? Interesting...

    ReplyDelete