Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Antioxidant Rich Foods

Berries

I know you've heard all the buzz about antioxidants in the last several years, but do you know what an antioxidant is?  It is a substance that helps protect and repair natural oxidation (caused by free radicals) of your bodies cells.  This can happen through exposure to things like cigarette smoke or sunlight but also is part of the processes of the body (like inflammation and metabolism.)   So basically, there is no way to avoid the bombardment of free radicals we all face each day.  Enter the antioxidants.

There are plenty of medical studies out there that say that people who eat antioxidant rich foods live longer and have less incident of illness (like cancer, Parkinson's, heart disease, Alzheimer's and more.)  Less conclusive are studies that use supplements as the source for the antioxidants.  I tend to believe, as I think Micheal Pollan once said, that there is more magic in the carrot than just the beta-carotene.  Taking just one piece out of the food may be dangerous, or at least, destroys the completeness of the solution.  (If you want more information on this supplement vs food idea- look here.)

All those musings aside, let's talk about the ways to get more antioxidant rich foods into your day:
First thing to do is add color to your plate.  The more colors you eat the more antioxidants you ingest.  And, so tasty!
Berries are notoriously high in antioxidants- raspberries, blueberries, black berries and strawberries are a good place to start.  Goji berries and cherries are delicious sources as well.  Also leafy greens like kale and collared greens, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.  And don't forget orange foods like sweet potato, carrots and grapefruits.  Really- just about any food with a (naturally) bright color is bursting with goodness for you.  Nuts and legumes are also full of antioxidants.

So, how do you get more of these into your diet?  For me it goes right back to the first post in this series.  Of course, add these foods to meals.  Kale in your eggs and berries on the side for breakfast.  Raw carrots with lunch served with hummus.  Cashews sprinkled over your dinner.  Almonds in your salad.  To really boost your consumption though look to snacks (or turn these smoothies into part of your meal.) Adding a smoothie in the afternoon will really energize you at the time when most of us want to take a nap.  Here are two ideas:

A green smoothie:
2 cups kale
1 sliced up apple
1 banana (fresh or frozen)
1 spoonful of nut butter (like peanut)
1/2 cup water, coconut water or other natural juice
1/2 lemon sqeeezed in
Blend adding more liquid as needed

A berry smoothie:
1/2 cup strawberries (or cherries if you are allergic like me)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1 banana (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup yogurt (resist the urge to use nonfat yogurt)
1/2 cup water, coconut water or other natural juice
1/2 cup ice cubes

A few notes:  Feel free to substitute like crazy here.  There is no wrong answer unless your taste buds are repelled.  Using good quality frozen berries keeps the cost lower and reduces the need for ice.  You need fat to absorb some vitamins and minerals so don't skip on the yogurt or nut butters.  Because you are eating all raw food in these smoothies you are getting the most out of the foods.

If you have any left over (yeah, right) or are feeling industrious pour these blends into ice pop molds and toss them in the freezer.  I got these very cool molds for John for Father's Day.  They have been quite the hit around here.

So- what are your favorite ways eat berries?

PS- Here is a great in depth article on antioxidants if you want to know more.

{picture by Dan McKay.}

1 comment:

AlisaRock said...

I like banana, strawberry and blueberry smoothies. I use French Vanilla flavor yogurt to give it even more sweetness. It's delish!