Nutrition – Day one – Antioxidants made simple

I am altogether ill-equipped to handle this topic both because of the short-sighted way I blew-off of this course in medical school and the amount of white flour in my pantry.  Rather than muddle my way through it, I decided to call in an expert.  Say hello to Ellen Postolowski, personal chef and author.  In addition to filling in the blanks for me, she has provided me with some great, healthy recipes to share with you.  Find them and some more info about Ellen and her book, It’s Just Personal, under Feeling Better Without a Prescription.

In an attempt to start off the week with an overview of what you should and should not be eating, I wrote several paragraphs before I realized that I was rewriting what I wrote a couple of weeks ago under longevity diet.  I then went back, read memory loss and made an appointment to see a Neurologist.  Ever since I suffered this terrible head injury, I have had no choice other than to blame all my physical and emotional symptoms on my husband’s careless driving.  I’m no brain surgeon but I think jewelry or at least, the new kitchen table I want, may be the only cure.  Back to food.  In a nutshell, more fiber, fruits, vegetables, and super foods; less processed foods and red meat.  It seems like it should be easy but in the midst of getting through a day, yelling at your kids, getting yelled at by your boss and counting down the minutes to happy hour, there seems to be no time to balance a schedule, let alone a menu.  To make matters worse, we are bombarded with new information about what is good for you, what will kill you, what will take ten years off your life and ten pounds off your arse.   So, this week, with Ellen’s help, I will try to cut through the male cow excrement and provide you with some useful information about the buzz words that are all over the media.

Day 1 – What is an antioxidant and why should you care?

1.  First, you need to know what a free radical is.  Free radicals are unstable molecules that are formed as a result of normal metabolism but also from pollution and poisons.  They cause cell damage that is linked to tissue damage, aging and certain diseases.

2.  Antioxidants are like the strict parents of the Sixties.  They stop free radicals from forming which can stop the damage to your cells.

3.  There is some differing opinions about supplementing with antioxidants but most experts agree that it is important to get a fair amount of antioxidants in your diet.

4.  Antioxidants include vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium and beta-carotene.  Fruits and vegetables are your best source.  Every expert panel I looked at recommends at least 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day.  A serving is 1/2 cup.  Can someone please tell me where you find the time to even chew that much food, forget about buying and preparing it?  I’m lucky I have time for my daily glass or two of grapes.  Possibly on the weekend, I can try my best to squeeze in nine glasses of my favorite fruit but during the week, I have homework and carpools.  The Food Pyramid was obviously built by people with a lot of time on their hands.  Well, that’s the recommendation and all we can do is try.  Chef Ellen has a great smoothie recipe that can help.  If you have kids, keep putting the good stuff on their plates and hope that they acquire a taste for it.

5.  Antioxidants and weight loss.  Here is the way I see it.  If you eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables, there will be very little time left for cookies and Fritos.  You will also reap the benefit of all that fiber.

Flavonoids, found in chocolate, some teas and red wine are also a good source of antioxidants.  Whew!  Maybe fighting free radicals won’t be so tough after all.

The following is a list of good sources of antioxidants.  First though, here is something to remember.  Produce, fresh from the garden, will always have the highest nutrient count.  However, when something is out of season and is coming from far away, every day it sits after having been picked, it loses some of its nutritional value.  Frozen fruits and vegetables are often harvested and then frozen very quickly, allowing them to retain most of their nutritional value.  Just be sure that there are no added sugars or preservatives.  In my house, I get on these “we all have to eat healthier” kicks and load up on fruit just to find it rotting in the back of my fridge behind the Mallomars and leftover Chinese food.  It helps me to know that I am not sacrificing that much, if anything, by keeping a stock of frozen fruits and vegetables.

– FRUITS, specifically berries (cherries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate, grape, orange, plum, pineapple, kiwi, grapefruit.  Also, dried fruits like apricots, prunes and dates.

– VEGETABLES, specifically kale, chili pepper, red cabbage, peppers, parsley, artichoke, brussel sprouts, spinach, lemon, ginger, red beets.

– LEGUMES, specifically red, black, pinto and kidney

– NUTS and SEEDS – pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachio and sunflower seeds

– SPICES – cinnamon, oregano, parsley, pepper

– DON’T FORGET – dark chocolate and red wine

I think on Friday I will list the perfect diet for one whole day wherein you get every single thing you are supposed to get and don’t feel miserable or deprived at the end of it.  Chef Ellen, “HELP!”

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