By Paula Snyder
A nutritious diet is important at every stage of life, but it is particularly essential during the later stages of life when your body needs plenty of assistance to fight harmful free radicals. Free radical damage isn’t just limited to what you can see on the outside of your body. Free radical generating substances, such as fried food, alcohol, smoke, and pesticides, can cause enough damage to your body’s cells and begin to kill them off.
This causes degenerative diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, senile dementia, and inflammatory joint disease. Fortunately, there are groups of foods that help to prevent and fight against free radical damage. Often called superfoods, we’ve picked out five of the best nutrient-dense foods that provide your body with the powerful antioxidants it needs to fight free radicals.
It can be confusing figuring out what is and isn’t considered a legume. Essentially, the legume family can be considered ‘pods’ and includes peas, lentil, peanuts, beans, and alfalfa. The nutritional benefits of legumes are far-reaching – they are one of the best and cheapest sources of plant-based protein, and their active ingredients help to fight free radical damage. Beans and peas, particularly, are rich sources of anti-inflammatory properties, and can easily be included in meals such as soup, or snacks, like hummus.
The active ingredient in tomatoes, lycopene, is the same ingredient that causes their reddish color. Studies have linked lycopene with bone health, although it is traditionally known as a key phytochemical in the fight against cancer-causing free radicals. Interestingly, some research suggests processed canned tomatoes are a more efficient way for the human body to absorb lycopene, than fresh tomatoes. The temperature changes involved with processing these tomatoes makes it easier for the human body to absorb lycopene. Lycopene has also been associated with reduction in the risk of heart disease, as well as prostate and digestive tract cancers.
Blueberries are often touted as a superfood and with good reason. Blueberries have been ranked as possessing one of the highest antioxidant properties among all fruits and vegetables. They are certainly packed full of antioxidants, but they also provide some welcome relief for anyone harboring a strong affection for sugary foods. The dreaded sugar crash is well-known to many, and it kills your brain’s ability to function optimally. Raw blueberries can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and urinary tract infections. They also help with collagen retention and formation.
The active ingredient in cinnamon is rather a mouthful – hydroxychalcone is sometimes used as medication for diabetics as it mimics insulin-like biological activity. It also helps to improve insulin response in general, which reduces the risk of developing diabetes. A daily intake of cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar levels by 20-30%. It can easily be added to hot beverages and breakfast foods, and is a key ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Asian dishes.
We mentioned alcohol as a free radical generating substance, and while this is true for the consumption of large amounts of alcohol, there is also a lot of research to suggest that red wine can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and help to prevent certain cancers. You may well have heard of the link between red wine and the risk of heart disease and red wine also helps to improve blood clotting. The key with red wine consumption is all to do with moderation. The National Institute of Health recommends that people aged 65 and above should not exceed seven drinks per week (one drink is equivalent to 5 ounces of wine) and no more than 3 drinks in one day.
Some foods are just more nutrient dense than others and those nutrients contribute to helping your body perform to the best of its ability. Superfoods are an easy way to incorporate nutrient-dense foods into your diet that help fight free radical damage and prevent diseases that become more prevalent as your body ages. With simple adaptations and swaps, these five foods can easily be incorporated into your current diet.
Paula Snyder is the Marketing Manager of Zen Spirit Premium Foods, a business dedicated to offering quality, healthy eating options to communities.