- Free radical accumulation is harmful and can have severe consequences on our health
- Free radical content is high in nutrient-poor meals and those deficient of antioxidants
With the holiday season over, now comes the time for all kinds of food resolutions, mainly focused on dieting. There are many reasons to think about eating better, but they do not all have to do with weight loss. Your food choices can help reduce stress in your body by reducing the number of free radicals in your cells.
Nutrient metabolism and free radical formation
Antioxidant-rich holiday foods
- Avoid high glycemic foods, or foods that are rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars. They are more likely to generate free radicals.
- Limit processed meats such as sausages, bacon and salami. They contain preservatives, which leads to the production of free radicals.
- Limit red meat. It is particularly more vulnerable to oxidation because of its high iron content.
- Don't reuse cooking fats and oils. Heating fats and oils during cooking oxidizes them, generating free radicals which seep into our foods.
- Limit alcohol. Alcoholic drinks not only are high in calories but also can produce free radicals in the body. Try to limit your drinks to one or two per day.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants, chemicals that inhibit the oxidation of molecules by neutralizing free radicals, thereby stopping them from causing cellular damage. Antioxidants are found in a variety of plants in the form of vitamins A, C and E, selenium and certain phytonutrients and polyphenols. Cranberries are loaded with them!
- Look for foods with β-carotene, lycopene and lutein, including broccoli flowers, alfalfa sprouts, Brussels sprouts, carrots, collard greens, corn, mango and tomatoes. These foods can be incorporated into several side dishes such as vegetable medleys, casseroles and salads.
- Consider fruit for dessert instead of rich pies and cakes. Apples, cantaloupe, cherries, grapefruit, kiwi, papaya, red grapes, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are delightful on their own or when mixed to create lovely fruit salads.
- Grab some nuts -- always plentiful at the holidays -- and other foods rich in vitamin E, such as sweet potatoes.
- Plant metabolites called flavonoids also demonstrate antioxidant functions. Some versatile antioxidant-rich flavonoids include onions, eggplant, lettuce, turnip greens, endives, pears, red wine, parsley, citrus fruits, berries, cherries, plums, legumes, soybeans, milk, cheese, tofu and miso.
- Enjoy antioxidant superfoods, those with high levels of more than one vitamin. These are prunes, plums, raisins, blueberries, cranberries, figs, oranges, pomegranates, sweet red bell peppers, beets, kale, spinach and dark chocolate.
- Try herbal therapy -- in your food! Many spices can not only enhance the flavor of our holiday turkeys and hams but also reduce oxidative stress. These include ginger, grape seed extract, ginkgo, rosemary and turmeric.
- Take time for tea. When the evening comes to an end, you can revel in a gentle and soothing cup of warm green tea and be comforted in knowing that the polyphenols in your brew also combat oxidation.