Antioxidants – will we live longer if we eat them?

Antioxidants are compounds in food that research shows can play a role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye disease and slowing down ageing. Little powerhouses indeed.

Supplement and skincare companies know that youthfulness and staying young is right at the top of our wish lists don’t they? There is every powder and potion known to man, designed to smooth our skin, get rid of wrinkles and stop the ageing process on retail shelves all over the world.

A 2012 meta-analyis of over 70 clinical trials found antioxidant supplements are ineffective or even detrimental to health. The high doses of antioxidants found in supplements can lead to severe health problems.

Just Imagine Being Able to Get Youthful Benefits From the Food You Eat, Instead of Spending Money and Time on False Promises

Firstly, lets look at the science behind these little beauties.  Antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen. They sound very impressive but the easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim was to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible.

Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. Thanks to the ‘Pixels’ movie starring Adam Sandler released a couple of years ago, everyone remembers the Pac-Man.

There you have the essential role of antioxidants.

Now About Those Free Radicals

They are produced in the presence of:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Ultra-violet light
  • Radiation
  • Carcinogens
  • High PUFA diet
  • Exercise
  • Inflammation

We need those antioxidants to help mop up those free radicals and thankfully they are conveniently colour coded for easy identification.

Red

Good source of lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in males.  Found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is among the most powerful antioxidants around. It is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and occurs naturally in many red foods, including watermelon and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes do provide a rich source but tomato paste is even better as cooking and processing tomatoes further stimulates and concentrates the lycopene content.  There is no current recommended dosage but suggestions range from 5-35mg per day, which equates to at least one to two servings of tomatoes or tomato products per day.

Orange and Yellow

Good source of beta-carotene, which can protect against a range of cancers.  Found in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango, paw-paw, apricots and rockmelon.

Green

Good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds related to beta-carotene that can protect our eyes as we age.  Found in broccoli, spinach, silver beet, capsicum, chilli, parsley and dark lettuces.

Blue and Purples

Good source of anthocyanin’s for antioxidant and antibacterial properties.  Found in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, beetroot and radicchio lettuce.

Brown

Good source of catechin’s for blood vessel health and of course, our happiness!  Found in some of our favourites such as tea, coffee, chocolate and red wine.

How Many of These Antioxidants Do We Need?

There are no recommended intakes just yet. We do know that it is preferable to consume antioxidants through food rather than supplements, because there are other nutrients in food that enhance their absorption. The average worldwide intake of fruit and vegetables at present is too low and we need to work toward the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, which are 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables daily.

To keep our bodies zinging on the inside and out during winter, go grab some. Like now.

Incredible Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Some of my favourite childhood memories of food involve the humble cauliflower. The smell of this delicious vegetable baking in the oven smothered in a cheesy sauce, takes me straight back to my mum teaching me the basics of cooking. Of course, I know now that cauliflower is so much more than a friend to cheese, plus there are so many incredible health benefits to eating this tasty vegetable.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica family and close cousins to broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In the nutrition world, they pack a punch and can truly enhance your health and well-being.

Bring on the incredible benefits of cauliflower.

Fighting the Free Radicals

Cauliflower is a rich source of a particular group of antioxidants known as ‘indoles,’ which are linked to the prevention of a number of cancers including bladder, breast and colorectal. These antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues. This damage is caused by free radicals which are produced in the presence of cigarette smoke, radiation, inflammation, UV light and extreme exercise. The indoles in cauliflower gobble up the free radicals and reduce damage to your cells and the risk of cancer. Although antioxidants can be found in supplement form, they are much more effective in whole food like cauliflower.

A Date with Detox

The human body is very clever but sometimes it needs a bit of help. Our natural detox system usually ticks along all by itself but we do need to give it adequate nutritional support. If unwanted toxins come sailing in and less than ideal choices are being made in the dietary department, we put ourselves at an increased risk of damage to our cells and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease and cancer.

Cauliflower does come to the rescue here as it is bursting with phytonutrients known as glucosinolates that help activate our detoxification system. They are the sulphur containing compounds that give cauliflower its distinctive aroma and taste and they also act as natural anti-inflammatories.

Come in Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for skin and brain health and is a powerful antioxidant to boot. Many people think oranges and berries when looking for Vitamin C but cauliflower has hidden talents in this area. Half a small cauliflower contains almost 60mg of Vitamin C compared to 69mg in a medium orange, 32mg in 1-cup raspberries and 14mg in 1-cup of blueberries. Being the brightest doesn’t always mean the best!

Low calorie friend

Having low calorie snacks and meal ingredients on hand makes eating healthy food so much easier. The beauty of cauliflower is that it is extremely versatile and can be the base of a delicious soup or curry, an accompaniment to any meal and even a tasty substitute to rice or pasta in the form of the popular cauliflower rice. Versatility aside, one of the incredible benefits of cauliflower is that there are just 48 calories in 1-cup.

Fill up on Fibre

Research shows that fibre is vital to our gut health. It is also one of the keys to fat blasting as fibre does a great job of filling you up and therefore reducing your intake of high fat and calorie foods.

Fibre helps reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels plus it helps to keep us regular. Fibre keeps the system moving by feeding the healthy bugs in the large bowel and speeding up digestion, which helps protect against cancer.

A healthy gut is strongly linked to mood and mental health, so it is great news that cauliflower contains over 5 grams of fibre in every cup.

So what are you waiting for?