Antioxidants are an important part of your daily diet. Antioxidants are found in plant based foods, and help eliminate harmful and unstable substances in the body. These harmful substances are called free radicals. An excess of free radicals causes inflammation that contribute to inflammatory chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, PCOS, autoimmune disease, and stroke.
The good news is, you can find antioxidants in plenty of foods! You don’t even have to memorize a complicated list of foods that you need to make sure you eat regularly. All you have to remember, is eat a rainbow of colors everyday. This includes green, yellow, blue, purple, orange, and white. As long as you eat the rainbow, (and yes, we are talking fruits and vegetables here, not Skittles) you can feel confidant you are getting a daily dose of antioxidants.
To dive a little deeper into the topic, there are some plants you should consume raw to get a larger antioxidant boost. Check out a previous blog post, Maximize your Antioxidant Absorption with Heat!, to find out which foods you should consume cooked to get a larger antioxidant boost! Cooked cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, watercress) provide anti-cancer properties and help reduce cholesterol. Make sure to lightly steam or blanch these vegetables, so you do not lose valuable nutrients. Steaming preserves nutrients while boiling and sautéing leach nutrients out.
Eggplant is a GREAT source of antioxidants and one of the few purple vegetables. Make sure to salt your eggplant and let it sit for 3-5 minutes before cooking. This makes the eggplant “sweat” and removes the bitter taste associated with eggplants. Grilling eggplants is the best way to preserve the antioxidants. Antioxidants found in eggplants have anti-cancer, anti-viral, and LDL (bad cholesterol) lowering abilities. Eggplants are in season from August to October, give or take a few months depending on where you live. This is the beginning of cold and flu season. Since eggplants have anti-viral antioxidants, they are the perfect infection fighting food!
Peppers are a great example of the “either or” kind of vegetable. Cooked peppers give you a boost in some antioxidants, while raw peppers give you a boost in different antioxidants. If you choose to cook your peppers, make sure you roast or stir-fry them. Boiling or steaming peppers causes the antioxidants to leach out of them. Another up side of cooking peppers is the caramelization process. Red, yellow, and orange peppers are sweeter, so when you roast them, taste sweeter-without adding any excess sugar!
The last vegetables I will go over are onions and garlic. Onions and garlic can be painful to eat raw. The taste lingers in your mouth and throat long after you eat them, causing potent garlic or onion breath. Not something you or others around you want to smell all day or all night. The good news is, cooked onions and garlic have about the same antioxidant capacity as raw. So roast, stir fry, blanch, or even microwave those bad boys! Just like peppers, onions will caramelize when roasted or stir fried, making them a sweet addition to any dish.