Karen van der Berg
Strawberries, red wine and dark chocolate. These may sound like ingredients of a lovely recipe for a romantic evening at home. But all three are also foods that contain a lot of anti-oxidants.
One always hears that a balanced eating plan should include enough anti-oxidants. What are they and what role do they play in one’s body?
Lené van der Merwe, a dietician in Bloemfontein, says anti-oxidants are extremely powerful nutrients that help the body get rid of harmful and dangerous substances.
“When you have absorbed an excessive amount of wrong and unhealthy food, toxic substances can accumulate in your body and make you feel tired. This is when anti-oxidants help the body to recover and revitalise and protect it against further damage.”
How does one make sure that you get enough?
Lené says that plant-based foods specifically, such as fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds, are packed with anti-oxidants.
“The most important thing is for you to eat a variety of foods from the key food groups to meet your basic nutritional requirements and thereafter you can choose foods with more nutritional value in each group, if possible.”
She compiled a list of foods in which anti-oxidants generally occur:
Potatoes: They contain many carotenoids, the same kind of anti-oxidants that occur in carrots and tomatoes and that have a protective effect against certain cancers.
Lené says potatoes should never be fried, and one should eat the skin as well.
Pecan nuts: These contain a lot of tocoferol, a collection of the different varieties of vitamin E. They have been connected to a wide range of health benefits, such as a smaller risk of prostate and breast cancer.
Mushrooms: They contain ergothioneine that occurs in wheat germ and plays an important role in protecting the body’s cells. Most of this is to be found in the head of this edible fungus.
Eggs: Eggs contain lutein, that also occurs in spinach and other green leafy vegetables. It is especially important because it can protect your eyes against cataracts and age-related sight loss.
Popcorn: Popcorn contains polyphenols. They protect you against the risk factors for heart disease and combat cancer. They also occur in fruit and green tea.
Lené says the kind you pop at home is healthier than those you buy as the latter contain a lot of butter, oil or salt.
Cinnamon: Phenolic essential oils, the active ingredients in most spices, also occur in cinnamon. It can be sprinkled over a variety of dishes to provide a pleasant flavour, from breakfast cereals to vegetables.
Fresh oregano: Fresh oregano contains rosemary acid and has a stronger anti-oxidant effect than vitamin E.
According to Lené it is always better to use fresh herbs. This is also the case with oregano.