For those of you who grew up over the 90s, you’ll remember the Lipton tea ad spruiking the antioxidant benefits of drinking their tea. “Aunty-who?”. Since that time, we’ve seen and heard the word splashed across health food packaging, food labels and on other advertisements as a way of enticing us to buy a brand’s particular product.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidant is the word given to a certain type of chemical (occurring naturally or synthesized) that stabilises oxidized compounds. These oxidised compounds (sometimes known as free radicals) are unstable and cause damage to the other chemical structures around them like DNA, cell membranes, fats, proteins and other parts of the body.
Dietary antioxidants found in food help protect the body from this oxidative damage which has been indicated as one of the culprits of ageing, cancer, DNA damage and the pathology of made diseases. The key to long term good health is good overall diet quality that includes a variety of health foods.
Below are my top 10 antioxidant rich foods to keep your body feeling healthy and feeling young!
Rich in vitamin C, a strong antioxidant, strawberries are a reliable ally in your fight against free-radicals. They’re also very high in fibre and low in sugar making them great for managing a healthy waist line!
They are great thrown into a smoothie, chopped and thrown on top of your breakfast, dipped in dark chocolate for a little treat or eaten just by themselves as a delicious snack. Strawberries are my No. 1.
- Fresh Herbs
Herbs are rich in antioxidants known as polyphenols. Use them in your cooking as often as possible. They are a great way of adding flavour to your food without adding excess kilojoules, making them a vital part of a healthy weight loss plan.
Try fresh coriander paired with chili and lime or oregano paired with lemon and garlic. Fresh basil is delicious in a summer salad and flat-leaf parsley and mint are a winning pair in a freshly made tabbouleh.
Another fantastic source of vitamin C, capsicums are a great way to create a beautiful, colourful meal as they come in 4 different colour varieties: green, red, yellow and orange. Slice them up and throw them into stir-fries, dip them in Greek yoghurt for a tasty snack or toss them into a salad or on a sandwich.
I love capsicums grilled on the BBQ and then drizzled with a little lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Yum!
- Orange Vegetables
Carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato are all fantastic sources of another type of antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A by the body and has powerful antioxidant action against free-radicals.
Make home made chips from sweet potato instead of regular potato, snack on carrot sticks and regularly serve something ‘orange’ with your dinner like steamed carrots and baked pumpkin.
- Orange Fruit
Orange fruit contains both vitamin C and beta-carotene making them another great source of antioxidants. Oranges, mandarins and mangos are favourites that come to mind and are fantastic in fruit salads, deserts and or just by themselves as sweet, juicy, summer time snacks.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard at some point about the antioxidant power of berries. These little fruits pack a powerful antioxidant punch. Even the dried versions offer a decent antioxidant dose. Add blueberries, goji berries, raspberries, cherries, prunes and inca-berries to smoothies, breakfast, desserts, homemade muesli bars, muffins and really… whatever you like!
- Dried Herbs & Spices
Like fresh herbs, dried herbs and spices are a fantastic source of the antioxidants known as polyphenols. You do need to eat a significant amount of them to receive the full benefit of their antioxidant capabilities so use them quite liberally.
Try adding them to your own marinades, curry pastes and rubs. When you’re cutting back on oil, butter and sugar in order to lose weight, dried herbs and spices are a fantastic way to add flavour to a dish without compromising on the kilojoules!
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and chestnuts are known for their provision of healthy fats but also provide antioxidant action due to their high polyphenol content. Nuts make great snacks, especially mixed with fresh or dried fruit. A great addition to muesli, salads, stir fries and curries, nuts are definitely an all-rounder.
Olives and olive oil are another great source of antioxidants. Extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil makes a great salad dressing base, is a better alternative for cooking and is also a great source of healthy fats.
Tea, including both black and green varieties, is also a great source of antioxidants, just like the Lipton ads used to tell us all those years ago. A cup of green chamomile tea is the perfect way to relax after a long day. Sip on a freshly brewed aromatic tea instead of rummaging the cupboards for biscuits and cakes.
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