Modern nutritional wisdom says that eating foods rich in antioxidants will help combat disease and aging. But just what are antioxidants? The clue is in the name - these compounds act against too many oxidants (or free radicals) in the body. Antioxidants can 'mop up' these loose cannons and fight their damaging effects. Here are ten foods that are essential to a healthy diet.
1. Blueberries are so high in antioxidants that they have been called a 'superfood', and make dessert a healthy option. But while blueberry muffins and pancakes are popular, it is the raw fresh fruit that contains those important nutritional benefits. Fresh blueberries served with oatmeal and drizzled with coconut cream are a great start to the day, offering plenty of flavor and energy. Even dessert needn't be the end of all your good intentions, because blueberries mixed with raspberries, papaya and kiwi fruit will demolish those sweet tooth cravings and boost your immune system.
2. Coconut milk tastes great on oatmeal, as mentioned above. In fact, it can be substituted for cow's milk in all food and cooking. Coconut milk is available in powdered, liquid and cream forms. A packet of powdered coconut milk in your pantry will ensure that you never run out while canned coconut milk can be used anywhere you would use cow's milk. Canned coconut cream can be used in desserts. Coconut milk is naturally sweet so cutting back on sugar is easy. Coconut is teeming with antioxidants as well as other benefits, including important B vitamins and Lauric acid, a component of human milk that makes it more suitable for humans as well as a powerful booster for the immune system.
3. Green Tea is a powerful antioxidant ally. Like many antioxidant-rich foods, it is consumed most in areas where people live long, healthy lives. Green tea can be enjoyed all year round, as a refreshing summer drink, or as a comforting hot beverage in the winter. One of the best ways to enjoy green tea in hot weather is as a jelly, which is ridiculously simple to make. - just add two teaspoons of agar agar flakes or powder to a bowl of hot green tea and leave to set.
4. Artichokes are often considered an acquired taste, but it is worth acquiring a taste for these vegetables because unlike most other recommended vegetables, the artichoke does not lose its powerful antioxidant properties when cooked. Artichokes are quite simple to prepare. Just steam the flower-like heads, and eat when the leaves can be pulled off. Dipped in a butter and garlic sauce, they are delicious.
5. If you love Italian food, enjoy it to your hearts content, because the Mediterranean diet is famous for its long life properties. Minestrone, for example,is not just a winter warmer - with the addition of red beans it can become a life preserver. Small dried red beans are noted for being the beans highest in antioxidants, but pinto and kidney beans are not far behind, so enjoy that minestrone soup and stock up on dried and canned beans for soups and salads.
6. Remember how your Mom told you to eat your greens because they were good for you? It is true, because brassicas like broccoli, cabbages and Brussels sprouts are rich in antioxidants. But these are also the foods most likely to be shunned by adults who may have been put off these vegetables by over-cooking. Sadly, these bright green beauties are probably the most abused vegetables in the kitchen. Brassicas need to be treated gently, cooked lightly with steam or a small amount of boiling water and served while they are still bright green and slightly crunchy. A great way to cook them is to lightly stir fry, which is why they taste so delicious in Chinese meals. They are even better eaten raw as crudites with salad dressing or dip.
7. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, it used to be said, and while it was probably the most abundant fresh food in some areas and a source of vitamin C, it turns out there are other reasons to enjoy this popular fruit, two varieties in particular. The highest tally of apple antioxidants are found in Red Delicious and Granny Smith varieties. Red Delicious is a true traditional eating apple, crisp and sweet, and a powerful immune system booster. Granny Smith is the classic cooking apple, cultivated in Australia by the real 'Granny' Maria Anne Smith in 1868. While an essential ingredient in the much-loved apple pie, experts say both apples are best eaten raw, with the skin on. Why? Because the bright color of the skin indicates the antioxidants being most concentrated there.
8. Garlic is another Mediterranean essential that helps ensure a long healthy life. Some people would rather swallow garlic tablets, but there really is no substitute for fat bulbs of white, purple or red garlic tied in thick bunches with clusters of big cloves. Garlic can become a staple in the kitchen without fear of alienating all your friends. The cure is simple - just persuade everyone you know to use it too, and you will cancel each other out.
9. Staying healthy and youthful can be agony for the sweet toothed and the snack lovers. But grapes are super little snack that can be enjoyed knowing you are boosting your immune system as well as dealing with cravings. Try snacking on a bunch of grapes instead of cookies and crackers. The refreshing taste will help train your taste buds away from heavily sweetened and salted foods and the antioxidants in a fresh bunch of grapes will help you live longer - or just have a glass of red wine.
10. The humble tomatoes in your salad and spaghetti sauce are the best source of lycopene, a powerful fighter against cancer. The trick is adding olive oil, which makes the lycopene power up in your body. So drizzling olive oil on your salad and using it to prepare your spaghetti sauce is not only great cooking but great protection against disease as well. As they say in Italy, enjoy.
By incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into your daily diet, you will be following in the taste buds of cultures around the world which have shown, time and again, what a healthy diet can do. Better still, it can be a lot simpler than most people believe - and a lot more delicious!