August 31, 2015
Antioxidants are naturally occurring molecules believed to fight against the action of free radicals. Including some vitamins such as vitamins C and E, antioxidants are abundant in a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables. Fish, fat free dairy products and high fiber, whole grains. also protect the body from damage caused by harmful free radicals. Many experts believe that free radicals factor in the development of atherosclerosis or heart disease and cancer, as well as other conditions.
Although fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, the demand for antioxidants created a boom in the vitamin and dietary supplement industry, with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E topping the list. According to the American Heart Association, in 2012 vitamin and dietary supplement sales in the U.S. totaled nearly $23 billion.
Both the American Heart Association and WebMD agree that the best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. The types of foods you eat, and the amount you eat, can affect multiple risk factors including blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
The American Heart Association recommends a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, limited in saturated and trans fats, added sugars and includes low fat and fat free dairy products and high fiber, whole grains. They also say that one of the best reasons to include fruits and vegetables is not just their antioxidants, but because they also contribute a number of important nutrients that most people don’t get enough of including folate, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber.
So what are some fall favorite vegetables and fruits that are high in antioxidants and rich in vitamins? Here are five that you can pick up at your local farmers market or farm stand.
One cup of blackberries contains more antioxidants than blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries according to Fitness Magazine. Plus, one cupful provides half your daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
Red Bell Peppers
Not only are red bell peppers a rich, red color, but they also contain double the vitamin C of most other vitamin C-related fruits and veggies.
Maybe the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is actually true. According to Men’s Health magazine, apples are the “most popular source of antioxidants in our diet.” Why? Well, one apple equals 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C. They are even packed with protective flavonoids, which are said to be helpful in fighting heart disease and preventing cancer.
Don’t just use pumpkins for baking or carving this season, but use it to fight off that nasty cold or the flu. Their orange color is loaded with beta carotene aka “a nutrient that the body breaks down to make vitamin A.” In addition to aiding the immune system and cancer prevention, Vitamin A also ensures a healthy respiratory system that is useful when you have a cold or the flu.
Broccoli is a year-round grocery store staple and readily available at farmers markets right now, so if you’re trying to find the perfect year-round source of antioxidants, broccoli could be the answer. This beautiful, leafy, green veggie contains vitamins A, C and E, and glucosinolates – a stimulant for the immune system.
Lots of other fruits, veggies, grains, herbs and even teas that are high in antioxidants and great for boosting the immune system. Fitness Magazine offers a list of some you might not have thought of before here. You can also read the American Heart Associations recommendations for a healthy diet here.
Photo credits: Apples courtesy of Dwight Miller Orchards