Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radical production and the ability of our body to remove it. Free radicals are useful as they have specific functions to fulfill, e.g. they are involved in transmitting intercellular signals. However, their excess can be very harmful to us. The world we live in today favors the formation of free radicals, which in consequence can lead to oxidative stress. We can help our body to fight this stress if we eat certain kinds of food. Read on to learn more.
Free radicals can contribute to oxidative damage to cells, especially proteins, lipids, and DNA. Therefore, the excess of free radicals can lead to numerous diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Oxidative stress is becoming more and more severe because of the factors that impact our lives more than ever: long-term stress, air pollution, smoking, alcohol consumption, and UV radiation. Fortunately, there are some things we can do to get the balance in our body right. In fighting oxidative stress, some exogenous antioxidants can help us. These can be found, among others, in plants.
Vegetables and fruit are some of the richest sources of antioxidants that we can add daily to our diet. We should also include seeds and nuts. Great sources of antioxidants are also herbs that we use to season dishes.
- Beta-carotene (provitamin A) - in addition to being an antioxidant that helps eliminate excess free radicals, it also fulfills other functions. Beta-carotene has a positive impact on our eyesight, as well as on the mucous membranes. A rich beta-carotene source is a carrot, pumpkin, spinach, kale, apricots, peaches, citrus fruit.
- Vitamin C - apart from having strong antioxidant properties, vitamin C is responsible for synthesizing collagen and the proper functioning of the immune system. Its sources are citrus fruit, rosehips, currants, raspberries, strawberries, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, and parsley.
- Vitamin E is one of the strongest antioxidants found in food. The sources of vitamin E are mainly almonds, nuts, seeds, as well as vegetable oils.
- Zinc and selenium - these are minerals with antioxidant properties. Pulses, grains, pips, and seeds are great sources of zinc. Brazil nuts are one of the best plant sources of selenium.
Apart from grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, seeds, and nuts that we should add to our diet to enrich it in antioxidants, we can also use spices like basil, oregano, turmeric, thyme, marjoram, and cinnamon.
What are the culinary properties of products rich in antioxidants? To which dishes should we add each of them? Look below to see some examples of how to use antioxidant-rich plants in our kitchen to eat healthy and tasty.
- Pumpkin appears on our plates mainly in the fall season. It has a delicate taste and therefore goes well with many dishes. With pumpkin, you can prepare cream soup or patties. As pumpkin is one of the best beta carotene sources, you can also marinate it and enjoy the taste throughout the year.
- Spinach - some people love it, some don’t. However, if we properly prepare it, there is a good chance that we will like it. Spinach can be served as a smoothie - just mix it with your favorite vegetables, fruit, water, or a plant drink (e.g. coconut, almond). The taste of fresh spinach leaves goes well with banana, orange, apple, and pear.
- Nuts - great both as a healthy snack and a valuable ingredient of dishes. We can add nuts to porridge, millet, and home-made cookies. Ground nuts can be used in salads (e.g. try to add walnuts to a salad with arugula and orange).
- Raspberry is rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber; therefore, it has a good impact on our health. If raspberries are too sour for you, combine them with other foods. They blend well with sweeter bananas or with natural yogurt.
To enrich your dishes and make them even healthier, add spices rich in antioxidants: basil, oregano, thyme, and cinnamon. Basil and oregano are very popular in Italian cuisine, so use them with different kinds of pasta. We can also prepare homemade pesto from basil leaves; it will taste delicious with almonds. Thyme, on the other hand, goes well with meat and fish dishes.
Oxidative stress and diseases related to it are severe problems in the 21st century. However, there are things that we can do to minimize the risk of oxidative stress. One of them is enriching our menu with vegetables and fruits, pips and seeds, nuts, grains, legumes, and spices.
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