Healthy Days and Nourishing Ways

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Antioxidants
The foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe all have the potential to expose us to toxins which can lead to the formation of free radicals. Left on their own, free radicals can cause damage, known as oxidative stress, to our cells. This oxidative stress can lead to premature aging, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative illnesses. What can we do? Increase our intake of antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as selenium, lycopene, and vitamins C and E, will intercept and neutralize free radicals as well as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Other potential causes of oxidative stress include smoking, overexposure to the sun, overexertion of exercise, overconsumption of polyunsaturated fats, overeating, and stress.

Let’s take a look at how we can increase our intake of antioxidants, decrease the formation of free radicals, and strengthen our immune systems.

·         Eat less. Free radicals are formed during the digestion of food. Also, there is lots of evidence that shows a correlation between restricting calories and living longer.

·         Eat more foods that have a good antioxidant reputation. There are lots to choose from, but here are some winners: blueberries, cranberries, prunes, walnuts, tomatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, kale, extra virgin olive oil, and chocolate.

·         Decrease the consumption of polyunsaturated fats, but not the foods like fish, flax, and walnuts that are good sources of the two essential fatty acids.

·         Add antioxidant rich seasonings like oregano, rosemary, sage, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, and cloves to your healthy food choices.

·         Don’t smoke.

·         The lycopene found in tomatoes becomes more bioavailable when cooked and when a healthy fat, such as extra virgin olive oil, is added. Some antioxidants are destroyed by long term storage or cooking, so eating foods fresh and raw, when possible, or lightly steamed, is usually best.

·         Decrease the consumption of sugar. Sugar not only compromises the immune system, it also increases the damage caused by oxidative stress and prevents vitamin C from functioning properly.

Diets rich in the right foods will give us the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fatty acids, and other nutrients our bodies need to keep enjoying more healthy days and nourishing ways.
To get started, check out this month’s recipe for Radical-Free Sauce.