By Matthew Kadey, RD
Give your diet a boost with five common foods that are brimming with antioxidants.
1. Eggs “Antioxidants are compounds capable of neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals, adding protection against certain chronic diseases,” says registered dietitian Lindy Kennedy, owner of FitNut Consulting in Calgary. Take a bite of one of these antioxidant underdogs for a nutritional boost.
Eggs Already known to be packed with protein and vitamin B12, the humble egg is also a source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Recent research tells us the antioxidant duo (found in egg yolks) is a powerful ally for healthy vision, helping shield our eyes from the damaging effects of UV rays. In fact, University of Alberta researchers determined that two cooked egg yolks have the same antioxidant prowess as one apple. So get cracking for breakfast (and dinner)!
2. Maple syrup Here’s some sweet news: Scientists from the University of Rhode Island recently determined that maple syrup possesses a smorgasbord of phytochemicals (plant compounds that have potent antioxidant powers). The researchers concluded that the phytochemicals naturally present in maple sap become concentrated when it’s made into syrup — which means it’s a great alternative to highly refined white sugar for your next batch of treats for the bake sale. Just don’t expect to find any antioxidant awesomeness in imitation maple syrups, which mostly consist of corn syrup.
3. Popcorn Popcorn contains levels of antioxidant polyphenols that are on par with those of fruits and vegetables, according to researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. Kennedy says research suggests that the polyphenols found in whole grains such as popcorn may reduce the risk of heart disease andcancer. For a healthy, low-calorie snack any time of day, air-pop plainpopcorn kernels and jazz them up with cayenne pepper, curry powder or shaved Parmesan cheese.
4. Broccoli stems Broccoli florets are well-known antioxidant powerhouses, but reconsider tossing the stem in the compost bin. A single stem provides more than a day’s worth of the supercharged antioxidant vitamin C. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people with higher vitamin C levels in their blood had a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
To prepare broccoli stems, peel off the tough skin and slice the tender parts for use in frittatas, omelettes or stir-fries. Or make ribbons with a vegetable peeler and add them to pasta or salad.
5. Millet Not just for the birds, whole grain millet contains more than 50 different antioxidants, according to researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Included in this antioxidant party are flavonoids, which may help halt the spread of cancerous cells.
“Try using millet in recipes calling for couscous, or as an alternative to oats for porridge,” suggests Kennedy. Bonus: Like quinoa and rice, millet is free of gluten.
This story was originally titled “Secret Agents” in the May 2012 issue of Canadian Living