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PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: SCOTT KEITH - There are a variety foods that are rich in antioxidants. Tomatoes, strawberries and blueberries are just some antioxidant-rich foods.When you look at the nutrition label on your favorite food, you won’t find antioxidants. Yet it’s these antioxidants that can help keep you on the road to better health.


Keeping tabs on antioxidants is Jan Kaplan, a dietitian and diabetes educator with The Portland Clinic.

“I think to talk about antioxidants, we have to talk about oxidation,” Kaplan said. “That’s a normal process of the body. Free radicals (a highly reactive atom or group of atoms that can damage cells, proteins and DNA by changing their structure) are produced when there are chemical changes to cells or to molecules in the body. But when there’s too much oxidation going on, free radicals cause damage to the cells.” She added that antioxidants buffer that oxidation. “They prevent that oxidation from getting out of control.”

KAPLANAsked which foods contain antioxidants, Kaplan replied, “The really simple answer is mostly plant foods. Plants naturally will have antioxidants in them.”

Among the common foods containing antioxidants: berries (particularly blueberries), cocoa, red wine, coffee, tea, nuts, herbs, spices and several fruits and vegetables.

There are ways foods high in antioxidants can benefit the body.

“We know that eating lots of antioxidant foods decreases your risk for heart disease, for certain types of cancers,” Kaplan said, noting that foods high in antioxidants may also reduce some of the complications of diabetes.

If, on the other hand, you don’t ingest high-antioxidant foods, disease can happen. “We know that. Disease will happen,” she said. “Your body needs antioxidants to kind of keep that oxidation reaction in check.”

When you consider high-antioxidant foods, look at vegetables, Kaplan said carrots and tomatoes are great choices. To get a variety of antioxidants, she suggests you eat several colors of plant foods

For those of us who enjoy a quick snack, consider chocolate, believe it or not. But just a small chunk, since chocolate is known for causing unwanted pounds.

“The chocolate that’s going to have the benefit has to be dark chocolate,” she said. “I recommend at least 70 percent cocoa solids, and it will say that on the label.”

Kaplan recommends an ounce of this chocolate a day. “It’s a small bite, but an ounce a day of really dark chocolate actually is a really beneficial, pleasant way to get antioxidants.”

Another antioxidant choice is nuts, but keep in mind that nuts are rich in calories.

“What I have people do is get one of those little Altoid tins and fill that with nuts,” she said. “When you eat that quantity of nuts regularly, it’s actually a really healthful snack. You get the antioxidants, you get the fiber for not many calories.”

Walnuts are a great choice, or you might consider spreading almond butter on an apple or stuffing almond butter in celery.

As a dietitian in the Portland area, Kaplan said of antioxidants, “They’re essential. But, I think, rather than focusing on am I getting antioxidants, it’s way more important to focus on am I getting a variety of plant foods and am I getting all those different colors, because then you’ll get the antioxidants.”

High-Antioxidant Ginger-Carrot Slaw with Toasted Sesame Seeds

COURTESY: EATWITHZEST - Ginger-carrot slaw with toasted sesame seeds is a recipe full of antioxidants.

Ingredients

12 large carrots, shredded

1/2 head of purple cabbage (also shredded in the food processor)

4” of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

1 bunch of fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Juice from 2 limes

1/3 cup tamari, gluten-free or low-sodium if desired

1/2 cup toasted sesame oil, expeller pressed

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Preparation

1. Grate the carrots and purple cabbage and toss in a large bowl.

2. Toast sesame seeds: Place a thin layer of sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium-high heat. The sesame seeds will toast very quickly. I let them sit in pan for 2 minutes, then stir every minute for the next 4 minutes until golden brown.

3. Mix everything together and then taste. You can always add more lime, ginger, tamari or toasted sesame oil for stronger flavors.

- Recipe and recipe photo courtesy of Zest Nutrition (eatwithzest.com)


Scott Keith is a freelance writer for the Portland Tribune and the Pamplin Media Group. If you have a health tip, or a story idea, contact Scott at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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