Antioxidants. It seems like everyone wants in on these because, duh, they’re good for you! But wait, what do they do? Where can you find them? WHAT ARE THEY? And how did they gain their superstar reputation?

Free Radicals:

In order to understand what antioxidants are, we need to learn about what free radicals are first. Free radicals are compounds that form in our bodies naturally when a) your body uses oxygen or b) the food we eat is converted into useable energy. Because they are highly unstable and reactive, free radicals have the potential to harm the cells in your body and can lead to development of diseases, such as heart disease or cancer1This is where  antioxidants can step in to save the day! They are chemicals that are both naturally produced by your body and naturally found in food. While your  body makes antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, it also relies on you to get antioxidants from food sources as well2. Essentially, when you eat foods containing antioxidants, you’re calling in the troops.

Some of you may feel the urge to run out and purchase antioxidant supplements because more is better… right? Not quite. Current studies  have shown that antioxidant supplements from artificial sources could interfere with health1 ,2. Furthermore, since some antioxidants (such as Vitamin A and E) are fat-soluble, there is a risk that over-consumption of could be harmful and cause nausea or vomiting7.

While the amount of antioxidants commonly found in a daily multivitamin mineral supplement are safe to consume, there is an abundance of evidence that suggests eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains provides protection against free radical damage (and it tastes better than a pill)1 ,2,3.

Here is a list of prominent antioxidants and which foods you can find them in6 :

Antioxidant

Food Sources

Tips on How to Include  Them in Your Diet

Vitamin C

Guava, peppers (red, yellow, green), kiwi, strawberries, citrus fruits, papaya, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and potatoes

  1. Add broccoli, brussel sprouts,  potatoes, and/or peppers to a stir-fry
  2. Add a little bit of sweetness to your salad with strawberries

Vitamin E

Almonds, sunflower seeds, vegetable oils, leafy vegetables, peanuts and peanut butter, sweet potato, and avocado

  1. Sprinkle seeds or wheat germ onto a salad, add them to your cereal/granola, or use when baking muffins/loaves
  2. Add avocado to your favorite salad/wrap or add it to your smoothie for a creamy texture

Selenium

Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, grain products, wheat germ, wheat bran, beans, oat bran, and eggs

  1. Make a mixed bean salad as an appetizer
  2. Boil soy beans and eat them as a snack or add them to casseroles/soups
  3. Bake fish like tilapia, cod, or salmon in the oven

Carotenoids

Kale, tomatoes/tomato products, spinach, sweet potato, carrot, leafy vegetables, pumpkin, squash, guava, watermelon, and grapefruit

  1. Make a tossed salad with spinach, kale, and dark leafy vegetables rather than just lettuce
  2. Add tomato sauce to top off whole grain pasta or brown rice
  3. Try roasted carrots or squash as a side

Flavonoids

Berries (especially dark coloured berries), cherries, red grapes, onions, apples, cocoa, tea (especially green tea)

  1. Choose green tea instead of coffee
  2. Add blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries to cereal, yogurt, low fat frozen yogurt, or cottage cheese
  3. Add apples/ red grapes to a salad

Here is an example of one of our very own free-radical killing recipes that is rich with antioxidants that you can enjoy at the Caf. Check our online menu to see when Ratatouille will next be on the menu, or make your own! 

Ratatouille with Quinoa & Fresh Herbs (Yield= 12 portions)

Ingredients Directions
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 20mL canola oil
  • 150g onion
  • 300g yellow zucchini, diced
  • 300g green zucchini, diced
  • 300g eggplant, diced
  • 300g green pepper, diced
  • 20g fresh garlic
  • 20g tomato paste
  • 650mL canned tomatoes, diced, no added salt, with juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5mL kosher salt
  • 5mL black pepper
  • 3mL basil leaves
  • 3mL dried oregano
  • 20mL fresh curly parsley
  1. In stockpot on high heat, heat oil. Add vegetables. Sauté until vegetables are tender crisp. Add chopped garlic
  2. Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer
  3. Add dry herbs and seasoning and simmer for 10-15 minutes
  4. Add fresh chopped parsley and cooked quinoa. Mix thoroughly and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove bay leaves
  5. Enjoy!

Jane Skapinker

Registered Dietitian

References

  1. National Institutes of Health. (2014). Antioxidants and cancer prevention. In National cancer institute. Retrieved from http:/ /www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/antioxidants-fact-sheet#r4
  2. Harvard. Antioxidants: beyond the hype. In Harvard school of public health. Retrieved from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/
  3. Dietitians of Canada. (2015). What you need to know about antioxidants. In Eat right Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/articles/antioxidants/what-you-need-to-know-about-antioxidants.aspx#.VaLuV0W05at
  4. Higdon, J. (2005). Flavonoids. In Micronutrient information center. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/flavonoids
  5. Oregon State University. Carotenoids. In Micronutrient information center. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/carotenoids
  6. Dietitians of Canada. (2009). Antioxidants and Your Diet. Retrieved from http://www.pennutrition.com/viewhandout.aspx?Portal=UbY=&id=JMbpXgw=&PreviewHandout=bA== [by access only]
  7. Allen, L. H., & Haskell, M. (2002). Estimating the potential for vitamin A toxicity in women and young children. The Journal of nutrition, 132(9), 2907S-2919S.

Monday, January 22, 2018 in
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