Antioxidants are far from a diet fad that will fall out of favor in the next year. These powerful nutrients are proven disease fighters that protect and repair cells from free radical damage while benefitting your health in countless ways. Antioxidants help your body protect itself from toxins in the environment, boost your immune system and reduce your risk for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, vision problems and more. Here are five tasty ways to increase your antioxidant intake this year.
Work up an appetite for antioxidants
Getting more fruits and vegetables in your diet is the easiest way to increase your antioxidant consumption, but nuts, seeds, fatty fish, coffee, tea and even chocolate are also on the high-antioxidant food list.
Eat more beta-carotene
Antioxidants are found primarily in colorful fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is a potent antioxidant that is found in orange-hued foods, such as apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, peaches, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tangerines and winter squash. Include foods rich in beta-carotene in every meal to ensure you’re getting your antioxidant boost for the day.
Delish ideas for boosting your intake of beta-carotene:
- Make pumpkin or sweet potato soup
- Add diced apricots, peaches, and nectarines to your green salads
- Dish up a fruit salad with cantaloupe and watermelon balls
- Snack on carrots or shred carrots into a salad or grain dish
- Add any beta-carotene-rich foods to smoothies
Get more Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another major antioxidant found in colorful fruits and vegetables. Fill your plate with berries, bell peppers, broccoli and other crucifers (such as Brussels sprouts, red cabbage and cauliflower), dark leafy greens, kiwi, grapefruit, mangoes, oranges, papaya, snow peas and tomatoes.
Tasty ways to get more Vitamin C:
- Toss a generous handful of berries into smoothies, cereal and salads
- Add lightly steamed or raw pepper strips and broccoli florets to whole wheat pasta or other grain dishes
- Saute spinach, kale, collard greens or chard with garlic and olive oil for a side dish
- Broil grapefruit halves or grill mango and papaya slices for a naturally sweet snack or dessert
- Juice oranges or grapefruit for fresh-squeezed juice
- Stir-fry Vitamin-C-rich veggies and serve with brown rice or whole grain pasta
Eat more Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant found abundantly in nuts and seeds, nut and seed oils and safflower oil as well as dark leafy greens, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, kiwi, mangoes, papaya and pumpkin.
Delicious tips for upping your Vitamin E:
- Make vinaigrettes using almond, hazelnut, sesame seed or walnut oils
- Drizzle nut and seed oils over foods to add flavor
- Toss nuts and seeds into cereal, grain dishes, salads and desserts
- Include dark leafy greens, broccoli and asparagus in salads, soups, stews and side dishes
- Puree avocado into smoothies or snack on guacamole
- Make smoothies with kiwi, mangoes, papaya and cooked pumpkin
Drink tea, coffee and wine
Though filling your plate with fruits and vegetables is the number one way to eat more antioxidants, you can also bolster your diet with antioxidants by sipping tea, coffee and wine – all in moderation, of course. Tea, coffee and wine are super sources of the antioxidants called polyphenols. Consider starting your day with a cup of your favorite brewed coffee, sipping tea throughout the day and enjoying dinner with a glass of wine.
Nibble on dark chocolate
It’s true: Dark chocolate (and cocoa powder) is high in the antioxidants known as polyphenols and flavonols. Who doesn’t want an excuse to eat more chocolate? Just be sure that you keep your portions small, since too much of anything can be a detriment to your health. Have a cup of hot chocolate made with cocoa powder or melted dark chocolate as a cold afternoon treat. Slowly nibble on a small square of chocolate after lunch and dinner (letting it suffice as your dessert). Shave a little dark chocolate over oatmeal and pancakes for a sweet morning surprise and garnish your desserts with a dusting of cocoa powder.