Healthy living will always have a place in our hearts and stomachs – literally and figuratively! Our health is comprised of our emotional and physical health, and most importantly, the food we eat every day. Without healthy eating, our bodies can never perform at optimum levels and organs cannot function properly for their intended purposes. Food gives us energy, and without energy, we are faced with the inability to do anything or think clearly. Because of this fact, it is vital that we fuel our bodies with the proper nutrients it needs – and one of the most impacting methods to take is to start by increasing daily antioxidant intake.
Antioxidants are natural nutrients and substances, like vitamin C, found in food and our bodies that combat harmful and potential damage from oxidants. “Oxidants”, under the definition of Diane McKay, Ph.D., assistant professor, and research at Tufts University, “are free radicals that you find in the environment, but are also naturally produced in your body”. They hinder the natural processes of the body, such as metabolism, and can contribute to degenerating diseases and harmful interactions.
There are many different types of antioxidants that our bodies can thrive on, and fortunately, they are easily accessible and found in our fruits and vegetables. Here are seven of the many ways to increase your daily antioxidant intake.
Buy antioxidant-rich foods at the grocery store
First, you need to research what are quality and high-antioxidant foods and what is available at your local supermarket. Antioxidants aren’t just limited to “super fruits” or organic food, despite what you see in advertisements. They never fail to exist in your beloved fruits and vegetables. Another tip when at the grocery store is to completely eliminate processed food from the list if you can. Not only do processed-food contain little to no nutrients, they always have a negative impact on your body and generate additional oxidants that aren’t necessary for our health.
Be aware of your food preparation methods
The way you prepare your food is just as important as the food you eat. This accounts for leaving the skin of fruits and vegetables on, avoiding copper pots, and cooking in a short amount of time with a high temperature, as opposed to the opposite. Take apples for example – you can consume up to 30% more antioxidants from an unpeeled apple than from one that has no skin at all. In regards to cooking supplies, copper pots reduce the amount of Vitamin C that naturally occurs in food. Studies show that they can also destroy the integrity of folic acid and vitamin E. Lastly, slow and low-temperature cooking diminishes a number of antioxidants in food due to its gradual release and breakdown of the food’s chemicals. When cooking food, always opt for quick and high-temperature methods to avoid losing antioxidants.
Take vitamins and supplements
An easy way to incorporate more antioxidants into your diet is by having supplements or vitamins first thing in the morning with breakfast. You can find them at grocery stores catered towards healthy living, such as Whole Foods or Sprouts, which offer a variety of supplements and vitamins that can cater to your specific needs. Furthermore, besides assisting with organ health, antioxidant supplements can be combined with additional nutrients that aid in skin and hair health.
Exchange salt and sugar for herbs and spices
Everyone loves a great flavor kick to their dishes. Instead of opting for the normal salt and pepper, add some flair to your food with herbs and spices. Besides providing culinary benefits, a spice, such as clove, can contribute more antioxidants than your recommended 1/2 cup serving of blueberries. But don’t be limited to seasoning meals with delicious new flavor combinations. You can also implement herbs into making a tea blend to drink before bedtime to encourage stabilization of metabolism and diminish bloating in the morning. If you enjoy coffee, get creative with adding a strong spice, such as star anise, to kick-start your taste buds before tackling the day.
Be conscious of your snacks
Aside from your main meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner – snacks provide an opportunity to get even more antioxidants into your diet for the day. Take advantage of the moments when you need to snack, such as commuting from home to the office after a break, pumping oxygen to the brain during productive hours at work, and even a post-workout snack to recover from an exhausting hour of exercise. Great snack ideas include making fruit salads mixed with greens and eating trail mix with hearty nuts, like walnuts, which are known to have more antioxidants than other nuts.
Blend and combine your antioxidants into smoothies and juices
Pack antioxidants into homemade smoothies and pressed juices. They make a great breakfast or fulfilling addition to a meal. Additionally, if you set aside time to make smoothies and juices, you can prepare drinks ahead of time that you can just grab and go during the busy week. This is a perfect method that also saves time for those who need to spend as little time as possible preparing meals.
Eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
Need to curb some sugar cravings? Indulge in dark chocolate! Cocoa is rich in flavonoid antioxidants that are found in green tea, fruits, and vegetables. Besides getting a great kick of endorphins from consuming chocolate in the first place, dark chocolate also improves cardiovascular health by maintaining cholesterol levels and reducing potential blood clots. Lastly, it contains calcium and potassium, which keeps your bones strong and prevents harmful imbalances between your body’s hormones.
Emily Walters is an experienced content writer. She has written about an array of topics, including healthcare, technology, travel, culinary, education, and even fashion & lifestyle. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling, training for half marathons, and cooking for her family.