Antioxidants to Your Rescue!
By Emily Fitzgerald, MScFN,RD on January 27 / 2016
[Cancer, Cancer Coaching, Families, Nutrition, Recipes]
You may have heard the term antioxidant and if so, you most likely heard it in the same sentence as cancer prevention. But, how do antioxidants really work?
Antioxidants are naturally occurring molecules found in certain foods. They protect your body’s cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are formed through natural body processes and when the body is exposed to pollutants such as tobacco smoke or radiation. Cell damage can lead to chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Therefore, including antioxidants in your diet can help decrease your risk of cancer.
The Million Dollar Question…Which foods contain antioxidants?
An antioxidant can be:
- A vitamin such as vitamins A, C or E
- A mineral like selenium
- A phytonutrient such as lycopene, beta-carotene or allyl sulphides
* There are thousands of antioxidants found naturally in foods. I have listed the most common ones for the sake of this blog post not being pages upon pages long!
- liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolk
- peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, citrus fruits, papaya, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, leafy vegetables, tomatoes
- almonds, sunflower seeds, vegetable oils, leafy vegetables, peanut and peanut butter, sweet potato, avocado
- brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, grain products, wheat germ, wheat bran, beans, oat bran, eggs
- Leeks, onion, garlic, chives
- tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges
- (think orange coloured): sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, pumpkin, mango
Enjoy a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains to help lower your risk of cancer. Don’t get stuck on one antioxidant or food, enjoy a variety to maximize your health!
Should I be taking an antioxidant supplement to decrease my risk of cancer?
Antioxidants in food have been found to be more effective in preventing cancer than antioxidant supplements (1). Studies have shown that taking a high dose antioxidant supplement may actually interfere with cancer treatment (2). There are also added benefits such as fiber and essential vitamins and minerals that you would not get from a supplement. Avoid taking a high dose supplement and include a variety of naturally occurring antioxidant rich foods in your diet.
Try making this delicious beet and pomegranate salad for an antioxidant boost!
3 medium beets, boiled, peeled, diced
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup apples, chopped
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Bring pot of water to a boil. Add beets and cook for about 45 minutes, until tender. Let cool, peel skins, dice and place in large bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the beets.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve.
Check out the Fuel Your Body Recipes I have created for our upcoming event – Bust a Move!
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- LaMantia J, Berinstein N. The essential cancer treatment nutrition guide and cookbook. Toronto, ON: Robert Rose Inc, 2012.
- Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s food and the nutrition care process. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders, 2012.
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