Feasting on a bowl of fresh berries or diving, fork-first, into a spinach salad are two delicious ways to stay healthy. That's because fruits and vegetables are bursting with antioxidants.
These natural substances include vitamins C and E and minerals selenium and zinc. They appear to work by deactivating free radicals, the unstable oxygen molecules associated with cancer, heart disease and the effects of aging.
It's believed that antioxidants in food 'zap' these pesky molecules in our bodies before they have a chance to harm healthy cells and tissue.
Naturally occurring substances called phytochemicals have also been identified as antioxidants. They're found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. The orange in carrots and sweet potatoes is created by beta carotene, the red in tomatoes and watermelon by lycopene, the yellow in corn by lutein and the blue in blueberries and plums by flavonoids. More that 4,000 different flavonoids have been identified so far!
Make the most of antioxidants by eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Skip the supplements - studies show that the many components in food somehow work together to enhance antioxidant effects.
Top up your breakfast cereal with fresh raspberries or blueberries.
Blanket morning pancakes with berries and yogurt rather than just syrup.
Toss strawberries and milk in the blender for a smoothie.
Serve grilled chicken on a bed of fresh salad greens.
Tuck extra veggies into ready-made food, whether it's spaghetti sauce, chili or canned soup.
Pack dried fruit like raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots or prunes into your briefcase, purse and kids' lunchbox.
Add shredded spinach or Swiss chard to a hearty bean soup.
Munch on red pepper strips at lunch.
Shred red cabbage into a cool summer salad.
When a recipe calls for one clove of garlic, try two.
Build your shopping list around these fruits and vegetables that are top sources for antioxidants.
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