Can you imagine being given a free pass to eat a decadent treat like chocolate every day? Well, hang on a moment, let’s just clarify this bit, because this free pass isn’t just for any type of chocolate. What we’re talking about here is quality dark chocolate at 50% or more, and it’s all in the name of antioxidants!
Antioxidants are substances or compounds found in certain vegetables and fruits, and they play a vital role in our health and well-being. Our body naturally produces some antioxidants while others must be sourced directly from food. Along with certain antioxidants, each one of us on this planet also has harmful free radicals present in our body daily.
Our western lifestyle is creating the need for antioxidants even more now as our body is constantly being exposed to various things such as, environmental pollutants, a growing dependence on medication, the over-consumption of processed food, and the high exposure to harmful chemicals.
Because of this, many of us are exposed to an enormous amount of damaging oxidative stress, and sad to say, it’s taking over in numbers. As these free radicals begin to grow in number they begin to attack our cells, creating disease formation, and put our body at serious risk for many conditions such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer.
How to Include Antioxidants into Your Meal Planning
While it is unclear as to how many antioxidants the body requires daily, finding ways to add them to your diet can be simpler than you think. It’s helpful to first get acquainted with the top antioxidant foods and then see if you’re able to source them in your local stores.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate them into your meals. Smoothies, for example, are a fantastic way to pack in an array of healthy ingredients and can be eaten as a snack or as your breakfast or lunch meal.
And never underestimate the power of dried herbs and spices as they contain some of the most potent amounts of antioxidants. I’m sure you’ve been seeing a lot about the benefits of spices such as cinnamon and turmeric!
Another helpful thing to keep in mind is that some spices are better dried rather than fresh. Oregano, for example, contains a higher level of antioxidants when eaten dried instead of fresh. It’s also important to make sure you change your spices every 6 months or so to ensure freshness and nutrient potency.
So now you know that you can find antioxidants in spices, fruit, and vegetables. If you have no idea where to begin, below is a quick meal guide with some easy ideas of how to incorporate them into your meal planning. All you have to do is add any of the ingredients listed below to your shopping list, and then make sure they find their way onto your plate!
Add one or more items on this list below to your favorite bowl of cereal/yogurt/porridge, or into a freshly blended smoothie:
- Goji Berries
- Blue Berries
- Dried Cranberries
- Cinnamon Powder
For a breakfast hot drink, you can choose:
- Black coffee
- Green Tea
- Plain hot cocoa using dark cocoa powder
Add to a fresh salad:
- Red cabbage
You can add the different spices listed below into your food when cooking, and enjoy a nice glass of red wine to accompany your food. Choose from:
- Tomato sauce
- Kidney Beans
- Wild-caught Salmon
- Sweet Potatoes
- Dried Oregano
- Curry Powder
- Dried Parsley
- Chilli Powder
- Clove Powder
- Fresh Lemon Juice
- A glass of red wine
If you’re looking for a healthy snack in between meals you can grab a handful of nuts to munch on, or even better blend up a smoothie using some of the ideas on the breakfast list.
- Dark Chocolate
History of Antioxidant Evaluation
Antioxidants were previously rated by their ORAC score based on a measurement of 100 grams of each food or herb, this was developed by the National Institute of Aging. ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorption capacity.”
However, in 2012, the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory removed the USDA ORAC Database due to several reasons, one of the reasons being:
“ORAC values are routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products and by consumers to guide their food and dietary supplement choices.” (citation link: https://www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/beltsville-md/beltsville-human-nutrition-research-center/nutrient-data-laboratory/docs/oxygen-radical-absorbance-capacity-orac-of-selected-foods-release-2-2010/ )
Although this evaluation system isn’t used anymore, ORAC value scoring did serve its purpose in identifying foods that are high in antioxidants.
The Power of Antioxidants
Even though the body is capable of naturally producing antioxidants on its own, it is important to have a constant supply of from an outside source such as food, in order for the body to maintain a balance of antioxidants and oxidants.
Antioxidants are like a magic wand that helps the body neutralize and remove free radicals from our bloodstream. Plenty of antioxidants are added to household products and food to protect it from oxidization and spoilage. A good example of how this works would be one of the reasons why your mamma told you to squeeze lemon juice on your apple slices to prevent them from oxidizing and turning brown.
The benefits of having a continuous supply of this magic juice not only protects us from disease but also slows down the signs of aging, giving us youthful glowing skin! Who doesn’t want that?! Other benefits include a healthy gut and a beautifully active brain.
Paying attention to what you eat, and making sure to add plenty of antioxidant-rich foods into your diet on a daily basis, will boost your health and well-being.