“Free radicals, what the ‘ell are they?!” was a question posed to me recently by one of my Client’s. You may have heard the term free radicals in conjunction with the word ‘superfood’ – a term used by marketers to put certain foods on a super healthy pedestal for their health giving benefits. Free radicals on the other hand are often seen as the enemy. They are everywhere, produced naturally in our body during normal metabolism, during exercise and also come from pollution, fried or barbequed foods and smoking – there seems to be no getting away from them. Free radicals are an important part of our body’s functioning, however, they can also wreak havoc & cause damage within the body leading to an increased risk of various chronic diseases including heart disease & certain cancers.
So what can we do to combat them? Increasing your intake of antioxidants will offer powerful protection by in effect neutralising the free radicals and therefore limiting the damaging effects. You can get a whole load of antioxidants from your diet, with fruit and vegetables offering some of the most powerful protection. So how do you know which fruit & vegetables offer the most antioxidant protection? Researchers at Tufts University in Boston (USA) developed a scientific test to measure the oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC) of different foods. The following fruit and vegetables were found to be the top performers (based on a serving):-
Fruit: 2 x Plums; 1 cup berries; 1 medium pear; 1 medium apple; 1 cup cherries, 1 orange; 1 peach; 3 fresh apricots
Vegetables: half an avocado; asparagus (8 spears); broccoli (cup cooked); sweet potato (half a cup cooked); cooked beetroot (half a cup)
There are also plenty of other fruit and vegetables that contain antioxidant power including leafy green veg, red cabbage, peas, red peppers, watermelon, bananas and kiwi fruit. Choose at least 2 fruit and 3 vegetables every day to supply your body with the recommended 3500-5500 ORAC units for optimal health. Other suitable food choices with antioxidant power are lentils, kidney beans, walnuts, pistachios, ground cinnamon, turmeric, dark chocolate and red wine (go easy though – 150ml is the recommended amount!)