Now we are moving into the winter season when daylight is short and the weather is cold, it’s a good time to pay extra special attention to protecting health and wellbeing. At this time it is more tempting to turn towards eating stodgy, starchy and comforting food, rather than the more healthy fruits, vegetables and salads. It helps to think ahead so that the fridge is full of tempting looking multi coloured fruit and vegetables. Carrots sticks and other raw vegetable crudités ready for dipping in hummus are quick and easy. Try to include fresh juices in your diet for maximum health benefit.
A motivating factor for eating more fresh fruit and vegetables is being aware of how much of a protective effect the antioxidant substances found in fruit and vegetables can provide. Oxidation is a process that occurs as a result of essential body processes such as breathing, digestion, energy production, immune function, as well as the detoxification of harmful substances including alcohol, drugs or pollution and hormonal activity. Oxidation produces destructive substances known as free radicals which accelerate ageing and contribute to many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Pollution, sun exposure, stress, smoking, excessive exercise, radiation and burnt food accelerate the production of free radicals.
Antioxidants have a protective effect. Vitamins A, C and E are well known antioxidants. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables – especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed; don’t overcook or boil.
Beta carotene is the forerunner of vitamin A and helps to maintain the health of the delicate linings of the nose, throat and lungs which are on the front line when it comes to fighting bugs. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids are found in Broccoli, cantaloupe melon, carrots, green peppers, kale, mangoes, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon
Good sources of Vitamin C include berries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes
Vitamin E can be found in broccoli, carrots, chard, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds
However research has shown that many plant (phyto) nutrients have a stronger antioxidant capacity than vitamins. Phytochemicals with antioxidant activity include allyl sulfides , anthocyanins, carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols .
Some of the most powerful antioxidant foods are red and purple fruits, including berries (especially blueberries), plums (and prunes), red grapes (including raisins, grape juice, and red wine), cranberries, and pomegranates. The colour in these fruits comes from a groups of chemicals called anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation, protect against cancer, and recent studies show good effects in eyes, arteries, and brains.
Grapeseed contains pro-anthocyanidins which help strengthen and protect cell membranes.
Resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, is a strong antioxidant that has powerful and diverse effects on the heart and blood vessels. Acai berry, a highly nutritious Amazonian fruit, contains anthocyanins many times higher than found in the red wine grape.
Onions, leeks and garlic contain allyl sulfides. Onions also contain Quercetin, a bioflavonoid with proven anti-allergy effect.
Curcumin (turmeric) is an extremely effective antioxidant, with the ability to significantly reduce oxidation of fat.
Green Tea contains polyphenols which are potent antioxidants.