Top 10 Antioxidant FoodsWeve known for years that antioxidantscan help prevent heart disease and cancer,reduce blood pressure and slow the effectsof aging. These naturally occurringcompounds protect the body from harmful,excess free radicals, sweeping them upbefore they can cause damage. And thebest way to lay an antioxidant-richfoundation thats inhospitable to toxins andfree radicals is through a combination ofwhole foods.
BERRIESFew fruits have quite the provocative allure, thefragile charm or the nutrients of berries. Theyrefull of fiber, minerals and vitamins, and loadedwith healing antioxidants. Blueberries,raspberries and blackberries are rich inproanthocyanidins, antioxidants that can helpprevent cancer and heart disease. Strawberries,raspberries and blackberries contain ellagicacid, a plant compound that combatscarcinogens. Blueberries also appear to delaythe onset of age-related loss of cognitivefunction.Quick Tips:Stir raspberries into vanilla yogurt, add whole blueberries to salads, or dress upsliced strawberries with a little honey, balsamic vinegar and black pepper.
BROCCOLIMaybe you never listened when Mom said, "Eatyour broccoli." So listen now. Broccoli and othercruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflowerand Brussels sprouts, can help prevent cancer andward off heart disease. Cruciferous vegetablescontain a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C -a potent antioxidant that breaks down estrogen inthe body) that reduces the risk of breast cancerand other estrogen-sensitive cancers, like cancerof the ovaries and cervix. Other studies haveshown that broccoli can help fight cervicaldysplasia, a precancerous condition. Broccoli alsocontains other protective constituents like beta-carotene, which can help prevent cancer and heartdisease.Quick Tips:Wrap cooked, chilled broccoli with roasted pepper strips, or toss steamed broccoliwith olive oil, chopped black olives and crushed red pepper flakes.
TOMATOESTomatoes are fast becoming one of our favoritemodern foods, and for good reason -- they can ward offcertain kinds of cancer, prevent macular degenerationand cataracts, and help maintain mental function as weage. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a relatively raremember of the carotenoid family, also found in pinkgrapefruit and twice as powerful as beta-carotene.Studies have shown that men who eat more tomatoesor tomato sauce have significantly lower rates ofprostate cancer. Other studies suggest lycopene canhelp prevent lung, colon and breast cancers. Tomatoesalso contain the antioxidant glutathione, which helpsboost immune function. Note: cooked tomatoes arepreferable, since heat allows more desirableantioxidants in tomatoes to be made available to thebody. And because lycopene is fat-soluble, eatingtomatoes with oil can improve absorption.Quick Tips:Add minced sundried tomatoes to mashed potatoes, or toss Roma tomatoes withchopped fresh basil and olive oil and serve over pasta.
RED GRAPESA little red wine can keep your heart beating longerand stronger. Why? Mostly because of substancescalled resveratrol and quercetin found in redgrapes. These potent antioxidants boost hearthealth by acting as free-radical scavengers,reducing platelet aggregation and helping bloodvessels remain open and flexible. Resveratrol canalso protect against cancer and reduce the risk ofinflammatory diseases, gastric ulcers, stroke andeven osteoporosis.Quick Tips:Snack on frozen red grapes for a sweet treat, or heat organic red wine withcinnamon sticks and a few whole cloves.
GARLICThe "stinking rose," perhaps the worlds oldestknown medicinal and culinary herb, is packed withantioxidants that can help fend off cancer, heartdisease and the effects of aging. The sulfurcompounds that give garlic its pungent odor arethought to be responsible for its healing benefits.Studies have shown that garlic keeps the hearthealthy by lowering cholesterol levels, reducingblood pressure, fighting free radicals and keepingblood from clotting. Other studies suggest thateating garlic regularly can help prevent cancer. Italso has potent anti-fungal properties and can helptreat asthma and yeast infections.Quick Tips:Roast whole heads of garlic until soft, and spread on warm baguette slices orpuree roasted peppers with garlic for a fast sauce.
SPINACHPopeye may have thought eating spinach gave himstrength, but it also allowed him to hit a nutritionaljackpot. Because lutein (an antioxidant found inspinach) is the main pigment in the macula - theregion of maximum visual sensitivity - it can helpprotect your vision. Studies have shown thatpeople who eat spinach are less likely to developcataracts and macular degeneration, the two mostcommon causes of vision loss. Lutein appears towork by shielding the retina from sun damage andfighting free radicals that can harm the eyes. Somepreliminary studies have suggested that lutein canalso help prevent heart disease.Quick Tips:Stir chopped, fresh spinach and crushed walnuts into steamed brown rice, orlightly wilt baby spinach leaves and toss with olive oil.
TEAThe most frequently consumed beverage in theworld may also be one of the best ways to preventa number of degenerative diseases. Tea has beenshown to significantly reduce the risk of cancer,heart disease, stroke and other diseases. It wasoriginally thought that green tea had moreantioxidants than black tea, but recent studiessuggest that they are equally beneficial. Thecatechins in green tea are oxidized in themanufacturing process of black tea, forming free-radical fighting theaflavins.Quick Tips:Poach salmon in an infusion of green tea and ginger. Or boil soba noodles ingreen tea and toss with sesame seeds and a dash of toasted sesame oil.
CARROTSCarrots are loaded with a potent antioxidant calledbeta-carotene, a member of the healing family ofcarotenoids. Also found in beets, sweet potatoesand other yellow-orange vegetables, beta-caroteneprovides protection against: cancer, especiallylung, bladder, breast, esophageal and stomachcancers; heart disease, and the progression ofarthritis by as much as 70 percent. Note: Cookedcarrots have considerably higher levels ofantioxidants than uncooked, probably becauseheat breaks down the active compounds andmakes them more available.Quick Tips:Puree cooked carrots with low-fat chicken broth, rosemary and a dash of cream, orsteam whole baby carrots and toss with nutmeg, honey and a little butter.
WHOLE GRAINSYour morning bowl of cereal may be a more potentsource of phytochemicals than you think -- as longas its whole-grain variety. Vitamin E in grains is apotent antioxidant that plays a role in preventingcancer, especially prostate cancer. Other studieshave found that it can boost immunity, slow theprogression of Alzheimers disease, treat andpossibly prevent arthritis, prevent sunburn andtreat male infertility. Grains are also rich in phyticacid, known as IP-6, a potent antioxidant that canhelp protect against breast, colon and livercancers.Quick Tips:Combine cooked bulgur wheat with chopped parsley, scallions and olive oil, or addraisins, dried apricots and minced basil to brown rice.
SOYThe enduring favorite of health-foods aficionados,soy can help prevent cancer, lower cholesterol,ward off osteoporosis and lessen the effects ofmenopause. Most of the health benefits of soyhave been attributed to its content of Genistein andother isoflavones, which resemble naturalestrogens in the body. Studies have shown thatGenistein can help prevent breast, colon andprostate cancers. Additionally, soy can reduce bothoverall cholesterol levels and LDL (low-densitylipoprotein or "bad") cholesterol levels, withoutaffecting the levels of beneficial HDL. Soy can alsoprevent osteoporosis and help alleviate thesymptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.Quick Tips:Add cubed tempeh to pasta sauce, spread soy butter on a whole-wheat pitainstead of peanut butter or toss soy sprouts on a salad or in stir-fry dishes.