Antioxidant Power - How to get more in your diet
Antioxidants are often mentioned when discussing nutrition and healthy food choices because research shows they may help to protect the body against a range of diseases, including cancers, heart disease, and even Alzheimer's. So just what are antioxidants and how can we get more of them into our diet?
Antioxidants are natural substances, some of which are produced by the human body. Others are found in certain foods, including those that contain vitamins A, C or E. Antioxidants help to fight free radicals, which are potentially harmful molecules which are produced as part of the body's natural metabolism and which react with oxygen. These can also come from external pollutants and everyday chemical exposures. Free radicals are unstable and because of this, attack the closest cells to them, in an attempt to stabilise. This free radical activity can harm otherwise healthy cells, damaging genes, membranes, and proteins in our bodies.
Fortunately, the human body is naturally equipped to deal with a reasonable amount of free radicals - however modern lifestyles that include increased alcohol consumption, smoking, pollution, and increased UV light exposure have a significant contributory effect on the release of free radicals, causing extensive damage to cells and resulting in illness and disease.
How food can help
As we age, our ability to produce enough antioxidants naturally starts to diminish. The most important antioxidants are those that contain vitamins A, C, and E and selenium, but there are others, such as lycopene or anthocyanins. Studies seem to suggest that people who eat between five and seven servings of foods rich in these and other antioxidants have a considerably lower risk of developing cancer and heart disease.
Antioxidant levels can also be boosted through vitamin supplements, however research suggests that eating whole foods is more beneficial. Supplements may only contain one or two antioxidants, whereas whole foods often contain a far broader spectrum and come with a host of other nutritional benefits.
Boosting antioxidant levels
Leaving the skin on fruit and vegetables rather than peeling, is a quick tip to increase your antioxidant levels by as much as 30 percent. Opting for a sprinkle of cinnamon or sliced antioxidant rich fresh fruit like strawberries, kiwi fruit, or blueberries is a great way to sweeten desserts. You could add texture to your salad by sprinkling over a tablespoon of unsalted nuts or seeds, both excellent sources of vitamin E as well as antioxidants. If you like spicy food, then you could add a concentrated dose of antioxidants by using chilli flakes or cayenne pepper as an ingredient.
Cooking methods and temperatures count
Cooking fruit and vegetables is a very important consideration, when it comes to maximising antioxidant content. Chemicals and antioxidants are destroyed by very high heat with some being more sensitive than others - like vitamin C. In the case of tomatoes, heating reduces their vitamin C content, however it increases their lycopene content. The same can be said for carrots and their beta-carotene levels.
According to a study published in a 2009 edition of the “Journal of Food Science,” cooking with griddles, microwave ovens and ovens typically produce the least antioxidant destruction in veggies, whereas frying, pressure-cooking and boiling often lead to more destruction.
Consuming fresh, raw plant-based foods is a brilliant way of ensuring that the heat sensitive antioxidants are preserved for the maximum health benefits. It is for this reason that our Rawries products are made in temperatures below 42 degrees celsius, to maximise the antioxidant content and nutritional value.
Rawries is passionately committed to making raw wholegrain plant-based food convenient, achievable and absolutely delicious... for everyone! Visit our blog for articles and evidence based research discussions around the healthful benefits of incorporating "more raw" into your diet, as well as tips on how to boost your nutrition and overall wellbeing. For raw vegan inspirations, head to our vibrant recipe selection of breakfasts, mains, salads and soups, sauces and dips, desserts and fresh juices and smoothies. We can't wait to hear what you think of them!