This is the second in a series of 4 reviews on the incredible health and wellness benefits of all-natural, certified organic, GMO-free, nutrient-dense, foods, which are rich in omega 3s, critical antioxidants, all of the amino acids, particularly essential amino acids, and all the important vitamins and minerals. You can read about which foods are the best source of rich omega 3s in the first review, “Omega 3 Food List“.
The process of oxidation in the human body, called oxidative stress, damages cell membranes and other structures, including cellular proteins, lipids and DNA. When oxygen is metabolized, it creates unstable molecules called ‘free radicals’, which steal electrons from other molecules, causing damage to DNA and other cells. That’s why it is so vitally important for you
and your family to eat a nutrient-dense diet of foods high with antioxidants.
Having Some Free-Radicals Is Good
Your body can cope with some free radicals and needs them for your body to function effectively, such as destroying invading bacteria. Your body synthesizes some antioxidants on its own, but it’s generally not enough to completely balance out the flood of free radicals.
The damage caused by an overload of free radicals over time may become irreversible and lead to certain diseases, including heart disease, liver disease, premature aging, and some cancers, such as oral, esophageal, stomach, and bowel cancers. Oxidation can be accelerated by stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol, sunlight, pollution and other factors. Antioxidants are found in certain foods, which are also nutrient-dense foods, and may prevent some damage caused by free radicals by neutralizing them. These include the nutrient antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium.
Phytochemicals In Plants
Other dietary food compounds, such as the phytochemicals in plants, which are plants’ defense
mechanism to ward off insects, fungus, and diseases, are believed to have greater antioxidant effects than vitamins or minerals. These are called the non-nutrient antioxidants and include phytochemicals, such as lycopene in tomatoes and anthocyanins found in cranberries. A diet high in antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals from the body cells, and prevent or reduce the damage caused by oxidation.
The protective effect of antioxidants continues to be studied around the world. For instance, men who eat plenty of the antioxidant lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, may be less likely than other men to develop prostate cancer. Lutein, found in spinach and corn, has been linked to a lower incidence of eye lens degeneration and associated blindness in the elderly. Flavonoids, such as the tea catechins found in green tea, are believed to contribute to the low rates of heart disease in Japan.
Natural Versus Man-Made
Research is somewhat conflicted over whether antioxidant supplements (lab-made) offer the same health benefits as natural antioxidants in foods. There is increasing evidence that antioxidants are more effective when obtained naturally from
whole foods, rather than isolated from a food and presented in tablet form, as a supplement, which can actually increase cancer risk, not diminish it. For example, vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, but an increase in others, such as lung cancer in smokers, if vitamin A is purified and made into a supplement from foodstuffs and taken. One study examining the effects of vitamin E found that it did not offer the same benefits when taken as a supplement.
Attempts to mimic their effects with supplements have been largely unsuccessful, it seems nature remains smarter than mankind when it comes to antioxidants. Part of the reason for this seems to be bio availability. Your body “knows” how to assimulate and use natural antioxidants; it does not know how to use the lab-made versions. It is recommended that people eat a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products every day, to get their antioxidants, instead of taking an antioxidant supplement.
It’s a complex issue, each antioxidant substance has a specific action, but it’s when they exist in combinations that antioxidants appear most powerful. In a 2006 study, researchers at Colorado State University found that people who ate the widest variety of fruits and vegetables had the most DNA protection. That’s why it is recommended to eat a wide variety of all the four major food groups.
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Your diet should include five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. One serving is a medium-sized piece of fruit or a half-cup of cooked vegetables. It’s also important to begin cutting back on processed foods, which are devoid of natural
antioxidants, thus, promotes free-radical damage. It is also thought that antioxidants and other protective constituents from vegetables, legumes and fruit should be consumed regularly from early life, as babies, to be effective. Here is one more interesting note on the subject of babies, human breast milk has been analyzed and it’s higher in antioxidant than manufactured formula.
The first foods high with antioxidants that probably come to mind is probably fruits and vegetables, and for good reason! They rich in antioxidants and other healthy food components, such as slow release carbohydrates, protein and fiber. They should be fresh, certified organic, non-GMO, nutrient-dense fruits and veggies. The best fruits to fight free radicals are the ones that are more sour or yellow, red and bluish-black colored when ripe. Also, the peel or skin contains larger amounts of antioxidants than the pulp. It is also advisable to eat the peel of citrus fruits, if it’s organic, which is rich in antioxidants. Here are the top antioxidant fruits and vegetables, in the order of the highest antioxidant content to the lowest:
Fruits and Vegetables. Apples, Red Kidney Beans, Olives (extra virgin oil), Pinto Beans, Artichokes, Plums, Apricots (dried), Curly Kale, Blueberries, Cranberries, Blackberries, Red, and Green Chili, Prunes, Sweet Cherry, Goji Berries, Strawberries, Pomegranates, Black Olives, Russet Potatoes, Black Beans, Dates, Dried Mango, Oranges, Papaya, spinach, and broccoli.
Antioxidant-Rich Whole Cereals and Grains, and Legumes
Popular whole grain breakfast cereals and snack foods like popcorn contain surprisingly large amounts of healthful antioxidants called polyphenols (phytonutrients). In fact, whole grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to
fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols may be even more important than ﬁber in explaining the documented health beneﬁts of whole grains. Corn, for instance, has almost twice the antioxidant activity of apples, while wheat and oats almost equal broccoli and spinach in antioxidant activity. Here’s one even better, the cereal with the most antioxidants per serving is Raisin Bran, according to the research, and guess what, part of it is to do with the raisins.
Researchers at Nagasaki University reveal that the antioxidants contained in whole grains, which are rich in vitamin E, B group vitamins, carotenoids, zinc, copper, selenium and other trace elements, destroy free radicals 50 times more than vitamin C and E alone. Here are the best whole cereals and grains, and legumes:
Whole Grain Cereal and Grains. Barley, Beans (all types), Whole Meal Bread, Buckwheat, Aztec Maize, Millet, Whole Wheat, Corn, Brown or Wild Rice, Peanuts, Sorghrum, Rye, Oats, Quinoa, Oatmeal, and Popping Corn.
Antioxidant-Rich Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds have been part of the human diet since Paleolithic times. A few nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, and seeds, namely flax and chia, get most of the glory, but the fact is each nut and seed brings something beneficial to the
table. While exact nutrient compositions vary, nuts and seeds are rich sources of heart-healthy fats, fiber, plant protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and other bio active compounds, including an array of phytochemicals that are very effective antioxidants. Certified organic, non-GMO, nuts and seeds you should be consuming:
Antioxidant-Rich Nutrient-Dense Grass-Fed Or Free-Range Meats, Eggs, and Dairy Products
Grass-fed beef or free-range meat is much leaner than its conventional counterpart, grain-fed beef, which is the way the majority of the beef is commercially produced for human consumption. Grass-fed beef is also very high in protein and nutrients, including antioxidants such as Vitamins A (Beta carotene) C, and E, and a beneficial fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that’s been tied to improved immunity and anti-inflammation benefits to humans. Pastured beef also contains seven times more antioxidants than grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef packs about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than standard beef, although the amount is still lower than the total omega-3s found in fatty fish like Salmon or fresh Tuna.
Grass-fed or free-range meats are less likely to contain antibiotic-resistent bacteria, because of not being given hormones and antibiotics, as grain-fed beef is, so it’s considered superior from a food safety perspective. Not only does grass-fed beef from pastured cows provide us with more antioxidants to fight free-radical damage, but it has much less free radicals within the meat, to cause damages. Here are the most common certified organic, GMO-free, grass-fed and free-range meats:
In addition to the extra omega-3 fats, and antioxidants vitamins D and vitamin E, natural (cage-free or free-range) eggs contain more vitamin A as well as two important B vitamins — folate, the natural form of folic acid, and vitamin B-12. Natural eggs also deliver more lutein, an antioxidant important for eye health.
Exclusive grass feeding improves the quality of cow’s milk, increasing the omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants vitamin E, beta carotene, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid, CLA. The whole milk, butter, and cheese, from 100% grass fed cows contains an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Antioxidant-Rich Wild-Caught Or Cold-Water Fish
Considered a super food, the nutrition facts of wild-caught or cold-water fish, include antioxidant elements like selenium and other minerals like phosphorus, zinc, and potassium, as well as the vitamins E and B group—riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, B6, folate, and B12. Therefore, this super food aids in good health, as it makes up for most of the mineral and vitamin deficiencies in our body if we make it a part of our diet.
The debate of wild-caught versus farm-raised. Wild cold-water fish swim around in the wild, eating what nature intended them to eat. Therefore, their nutritional profile is more complete, with micro nutrients, fats, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants like astaxanthin, an antioxidant found in salmon, which is what gives salmon its pink or red colored flesh.
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat of wild salmon, is far superior to farmed. Farmed salmon has a 1-1 ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s, because of the low-quality feeds they are feed, while the ratio for wild salmon is generally between 6 and 9 to 1, which is a much more ideal and healthful ratio. In our opinion, farm-raised fish are the aquatic-equivalent to factory farmed and grain-fed livestock, in oppose to natural grass-fed beef. There’s really no debate, wild-caught is far healthier than farm-raised. End of story!
The best fresh natural antioxidant-rich wild-caught or cold-water fish and seafood are:
Cold-Water Seafood. Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, Wild Alaskan Halibut, Alaskan Sablefish, Wild Petrale Sole, Atlantic Sea Scallops, Wild Pink Tuna, Wild-Caught Raw Shrimp, and Spring Water Sardines.
Antioxidant-Rich Herbs and Spices
Eating flavorful foods can help you stick to a healthy diet, and put some ZEST in your life! Herbs and spices are ideal for getting a tasty antioxidant kick. While the levels are high, you probably don’t consume huge quantities on a daily basis, or do you?
Organic Spices and Seasonings. Cloves, Mint, Allspice, Cinnamon, Cilantro, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Bay Leaves, Cocoa (Dark Chocolate), Sassafras, Cumin, Garlic, turmeric, Parsley, Basil, Ginger, Cayenne Pepper.
Antioxidants-Rich Organic Drinks and Smoothies
You can also boost your antioxidant levels with healthy hot and cold drinks. Many health experts warn against drinking too much fruit juice, however, as it can spike your blood pressure and lacks the healthy fiber of the whole fruit, so it’s actually better to eat the whole fruit. Here are the best antioxidants many fruitdrinks, the hightest antioxidant content to lowest:
Blueberry Smoothies With Peruvian Maca (*), Espresso, Coffee, Red Wine (Resveratrol), Pomegranate Juice, Green Tea, Grape Juice, Black Tea, Prune Juice, Cranberry Juice, and Orange Juice. Smoothies are a great way to enjoy all of your favorite nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich, and healthy fruits and veggies, too!
Planting Your Own Antioxidant-Rich Garden
Obviously, your best choice for providing the best antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for you and your family, is to plant your own private, backyard garden. Plant your own garden, you say? Yes, plant your garden, planning it and coming up with your own creative design, choosing the right nutrient-dense, certified organic non-GMO, antioxidant-rich, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seed plants to plant in your spring garden and a fall garden, planting them, nuturing them, and enjoying the fresh and healthy harvest when it’s time, year after year. Not only will you and your family be enjoying the freshest and healthiest foods available on the planet, off of your plants, vines, and trees, but the added health and wellness benefits of the mental and physical activity of planting and caring of the garden itself!
So, what do you think? Are you willing to commit to a plan of eating foods high with antioxidants, which will assure you and your family’s health and well being? Still, not convinced? Ask your question below. We’d love to hear your comments, as well.
(*) Learn more about Peruvian Maca in these reviews:
Look for an upcoming review “Amino Acids Benefits” for a full explanation on which all-natural, certified-organic, GMO-free, nutrient-dense foods, that contain all the amino acids, particularly essential amino acids.
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