Along with 2017 resolutions, savvy women add a smart, health-based action plan to their goals for the new year. While losing excess weight may be a primary concern, the benefits of following a well-balanced diet rich in antioxidants goes far beyond shedding a few pounds. In addition to slowing the signs of aging on the skin, an antioxidant-rich diet can promote healthy hair growth and reduce the risk of developing certain diseases, including dementia, vision loss, stroke and heart attacks.
Among other substances, antioxidants include beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, lycopene and lutein. Antioxidant-rich foods reduce the effects of free radicals in the body, which play a major role in disease formation. The levels of antioxidants in food are evaluated using an ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) Score. The process, developed by the National Institute of Aging, tests the power of a plant to absorb, then eliminate free radicals.
As yet, there is no official recommended daily allowance for including these beneficial foods in a diet, but when it comes to eating fresh, nutrient-rich foods – the more the better! Five of the best foods to add to your 2017 diet include:
Fresh berries are the best antioxidant fruits to consume, as they contain powerful phytochemicals that inhibit certain carcinogens. Berries are also great sources of vitamin C, carotenes and carotenoids, and include potassium, zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium. A serving of Goji berries alone has an ORAC score of 25,000!
Pecans offer the highest ORAC score (17,000), but hazelnuts and walnuts are also excellent antioxidant foods that can boost overall health. Try finding raw, organic nuts, not those pasteurized or irradiated for the best benefits.
Most vegetables, especially green leafy ones, are rich in plant compounds that act as antioxidants. These phytochemicals can help reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens. The best ways to maximize the effects of antioxidants found in vegetables is by eating them raw or by juicing.
The sprouts of several vegetables, including bean, sunflower and pea, are also powerful sources of antioxidants, vitamins, enzymes and minerals. Sprouts are easily grown, which guarantees an endless supply.
From pinto beans to black-eyed peas, beans contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals in addition to antioxidants. Kidney beans contain an ORAC score of about 400, while soybeans are rich in calcium, zinc, selenium and Vitamin C. Additionally, lentils contain folate and zinc; kidney and black beans contain folate. Substituting beans for meat a few times a week is a great way to include antioxidants.
THE GOOD STUFF
Like fresh grapes, red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol. Enjoying a few glasses of wine every week can help protect against certain cancers and heart disease.
Dark chocolate, with a ORAC score of 21,000 (thanks to containing the antioxidant procyanidin), is a sinful pleasure not to be ignored. Eating one ounce containing at least 70-percent cacao is an indulgent, yet healthy snack.