Friday, January 29, 2010
Antioxidants: Eat All Your Colors!
Antioxidants are all the rage today. And, justifiably so. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals which cause cell damage, which ultimately can lead to diseases of the heart and cancer. It seems everywhere you go its blueberry this and blueberry that. You have your choice of wild blueberry juice, blueberry-pomegranate juice, blueberry-cranberry juice and so on and so on. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love blueberries. But, in our rush to embrace the latest antioxidant food craze (blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates) we’re ignoring some very high-antioxidant foods that are probably sitting ignored in our cupboards. “What?” You ask, “What could possibly be higher in antioxidants than my beloved wild blueberry?” Well, how about the small red bean? That’s right, I said “bean.” The small red bean actually has more antioxidants per serving size than the wild blueberry. And the red kidney bean and pinto bean have more antioxidants per serving size than a serving of cultivated blueberries. What other foods are high in antioxidants? For starters, there are artichoke hearts, blackberries, prunes, pecans, spinach, kale, russet potatoes and plums. And, no, that’s not a mistake. Russet potatoes are on the list of foods high in antioxidants. The truth is, there are many common foods high in antioxidants and you should not just restrict yourself to one particular food source. Why? Well, have you ever heard the expression, “eat your colors?” That refers to the fact that foods are in different color “families” containing different types of antioxidants which have different benefits. For example, the yellow-orange color family of peaches and nectarines help our immune systems. The purple-red color family of foods (pomegranates, plums, berries) helps reduce inflammation. It’s important to eat foods from all color groups to reap the full benefits of antioxidants. The good news is that you can eat healthy foods high in antioxidants (by eating them raw, cooking them, or juicing them yourself) without having to pay a high price for the “flavor of the month” antioxidant juices being peddled in the supermarkets. So, give your blueberries some company at the dinner table. Invite some beans, spinach, potatoes and artichoke hearts and enjoy your antioxidants!