I have been focusing on everyday vegetables in my superfood posts. Time to explain why before I continue adding posts on the same theme. Watch out for interesting nutritional posts about spices too and please let me know if you enjoy this post.
Fight ageing – Put Colour Your Plate – Think Rainbow
Anti-Oxidants versus Free Radicals – a constant battle.
Anti-oxidants are our protective armies.
To understand how they work we need to know the enemy – Free Radicals.
Free radicals are present in the food we eat and in the air we breathe. Some enter our body through exposure to sunlight and can cause damage to our skin and eyes. Some trap low-density lipoproteins in the walls of arteries causing plaque to form, resulting in heart disease. Free radicals can get right into our cells and cause damage to DNA and to the membranes of cells. They can alter the way molecules enter and leave the cells, causing them to malfunction and even die. This is the biggest danger threatened by free radicals. Damaging cells can start a chain reaction initiating the onset of disease.
The good news is our body can defend itself and this is where anti-oxidants come in. Anti-oxidants can get deep inside the cells and protect them from free radical damage but when the free radicals overwhelm our protective mechanisms oxidative stress occurs. Oxidative stress can trigger the start of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Free radicals can accelerate the ageing process and are suspected to contribute to the development of Diabetes, Arthritis, Alzheimer, cataracts, kidney disease, and age degenerative blindness.
To protect us from free radicals the body produces an army of anti-oxidants. These react with free radicals and can stop the chain reaction that causes damage to cells. The body also produces molecules that effectively consume free radicals and we can also get these molecules from the food we eat.
We can choose food that produces free radicals, cause ageing and irreparably damage our cells or we can select foods that provides anti-oxidants that protect our cells and combat the signs of ageing. It is a no choice situation. If we want to live longer, remain fit and healthy and ward off infections and life threatening illnesses. We can empower our nutrition to protect and prevent. The choice is ours.
Many foods are a good source of anti-oxidants. Some vitamins such as Vitamin C and vitamin E are particularly important anti-oxidants that play a vital role in our protective mechanisms. To help us make healthy food choices we need to know which foods are good sources of anti-oxidants. Most of the best sources are plant foods, so good news for vegetarians. The best sources stand out for their remarkable vibrant colour, the deep-pigmented fruit and vegetables. The retention of the colour also indicates their freshness so use up fruit and vegetables whilst at their freshest and leave fading, mottled fruit and vegetables on the shelves, their oxidative quality will have diminished. There is a lot of talk about the best sources of anti oxidative vitamins but despite the hype of some foods no single food can provide us with the amount of anti-oxidants we can get by including a variety of foods in our meals. So when planning meals think rainbow. Choose as many different colours as you can. Creating rainbow dishes can also encourage children to eat more healthy foods too. To sum up, create as much colour as you can, you do not have to make expensive choices. Some of our everyday fruits and vegetables are the cheapest and tastiest – and don’t forget to include raw foods in your salad and vegetable choices too for maximum benefit. Every colour in fruit and vegetables represents a different anti-oxidant effect. Bright yellow and orange foods such as carrots, sweet potato, apricots provide one type of anti-oxidant, blue and purple foods such as blueberries, aubergines, purple sprouting broccoli have a different type and bright red foods such as tomatoes and beetroot contain other forms so brighten up your plate and you will be producing healthier meals.
A word about supplements.
Research is continuous regarding the benefits of vitamin supplements. It is possible to overdose, especially with vitamin E which is know to have adverse effects if too high a dose is consumed. On the other hand, research has shown that wholegrains and fruit and vegetables contain a wide variety of anti-oxidants and are the foods most beneficial to our health.
You can empower your own defence system through good nutrition. Include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day – and in addition snack on fruit. By including a wide range of fruit and vegetables and swapping refined grain for wholegrain products you will empower your body to wage war on the destructive free radicals that cause disease, premature ageing, and destroy healthy cells.