Tag Archives: antioxidants

All About Antioxidants

You have probably heard about antioxidants, the ‘super foods’ that contain them and a little bit about what they are meant to do.  The information out there can be confusing, and it’s important to know what antioxidants can do, might do, and won’t do, and what foods can provide you with the levels and types of antioxidants you need.  Below you’ll find all the basic information you need to make an educated decision about how, and how much, of each antioxidant you need every day.

An antioxidant is a molecule that slows the process of oxidation in other molecules.  Oxidation turns molecules into free radicals during the process of breaking down food, but also in response to exposure to tobacco or radiation.  Once molecules have been oxidized into free radicals, they start chain reactions which result in damage or death to cells.  Oxidation damage to cells often plays a major role in causing diseases and also in their progress.  Antioxidants, coming from the Latin meaning no oxidation, work to neutralize free radicals in our bodies.

By neutralizing some of the effects of free radicals in our bodies, antioxidants can boost our immune systems by helping prevent colds and flu.  Scientific evidence has also shown that antioxidants may play a part in preventing or controlling cancer symptoms, but to this point the conclusions have been inconsistent.  This doesn’t mean, however, you can skip out of the vitamins and minerals that make up the class of antioxidants.

Antioxidants come from lots of foods that are part of a healthy diet, including some of those antioxidant ‘super foods’ you may have heard of.  Types of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and Vitamins A, C and E.  On the long list of foods rich in these antioxidants are blue berries, carrots, squash, spinach, tomatoes, apricots, sweet potatoes, almonds and broccoli.  Other antioxidants that might help boost your immune system include vitamins zinc and selenium.  These vitamins can be found in oysters, dairy products, whole grains and seafood.

As you can imagine from the short list above, it’s easy to get all the antioxidants you need from a regular, healthy, diet.  If you choose to take an antioxidant or mineral supplement such as a multivitamin containing them, be aware that too much of either Vitamin A or E (or  both) can be toxic. Want to know if you’re getting what you need from your diet?  Ask us!  Email at Info@FitNicePT.com

A Balanced Diet Part V: Meat, Poultry, Fish, Beans, Eggs and Nuts

Is the name of this group enough to get you interested?  With so many choices out there for protein sources, it can be challenging to know what the best ones are.  Foods in this group include beef, pork, venison, chicken, duck, flounder, tuna, lima beans, pinto beans, shellfish, peanut butter, and almonds.  Wow.  Not only does this group contain a wide variety of choices, it provides a long list of healthy body benefits.

Nutrients pulled from the protein group range from, as expected, protein, which is also found in fats and carbohydrates and provides calories for energy, to iron, which carries oxygen to the blood.  The antioxidant Vitamin E, zinc that helps the immune system function and magnesium for building bones are all found in meat, poultry and fish.  Elements in each of the foods in this group are also the building blocks for muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, integral enzymes and hormones.  Omega-3 fatty acids are present in seafood, and 8 ounces of fish per week may help prevent heart disease.  The risk of potential heavy metal poisoning from consuming certain fish species frequently is greatly outweighed by the benefits of omega-3s.  Nuts and seeds are a high calorie food great for snacks.  They also aid in reducing the risk of heart disease, though it is important to limit sodium intake by eating unsalted nuts.

Making the right meat, poultry and fish choices is hard, so here are some tips for getting the best you can:  Cholesterol is only found in animal source foods, and fatty meats contains lots of low density lipids (LDL), or bad cholesterol.  LDL is a root cause of coronary heart disease risk, so choose lean meats and cut excess fat off before cooking.  Eliminate excess cooked fat by draining during cooking, limiting breading, and using low fat sauces and gravies.  Vary your lean meat choices, while mixing in fish at least twice per week.  Skip the egg yolks, take them out of hard boiled eggs, separate them from cooked eggs or purchase premade egg whites since yolks contain plenty of LDL as well.  Eating lots of fat usually leads to an excess consumption of calories, and that means extra time at the gym to maintain or lose weight.  Be sure to read labels, and know processed meats often contain excess sodium and more fat than raw foods.

After you’ve picked the right foods, you should consume between 5 and 6 ounce equivalents per day in the protein group, and the amount should be increased in proportion with activity.  One ounce of meat, poultry or fish, one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, ½ ounce of nuts, ¼ cup cooked beans or ¼ cup cooked peas all count as one ounce equivalents.  When preparing raw protein group foods, be sure to separate raw food from what is already cooked.  Thawing meats, poultry and seafood should occur quickly, in a microwave or by submerging in cool water.  After thawing raw meat or poultry, it should not be washed, but any and all cooking utensils, cutting boards and pans should be cleaned with hot, soapy water between each food item it touches.  A great way to avoid consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry and eggs, which can carry salmonella, E. coli and other nasty food borne illnesses, is to use a meat thermometer.  After cooking, protein group foods should be chilled or frozen promptly.

Vegetarians can get enough protein from non-meat, poultry or seafood choices in this group, but vegetarian diet will be addressed entirely in its own segment.  For more information on the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Nuts and Seeds Group, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods.html.  Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s segment, A Balanced Diet Part VI: Milk, Yogurt and Cheese!

A Balanced Diet Part IV: Fruits

Whole grains and vegetables for every meal are great, but here’s a good way to add even more variety to your diet: eat fruit!  Fruit is colorful, flavorful and good for you.  The Fruit group is made up of berries (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), citrus (orange, grapefruit, tangerine), melons (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe), tropical (banana, mango, pineapple), stones (cherry, peach, plum) and others (apple, grape, pear).  Eating a healthy amount of fruit per day can reduce the risk of heart disease, help protect against some types of cancer, reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity, lower blood pressure and decrease bone loss.  It is also low in fat and sodium while rich in potassium, dietary fiber, Vitamin C (helping with growth, healing wounds, maintains healthy teeth and gums), folic acid (reduces risk of birth defects and aids in formation of red blood cells), and Vitamin A (an antioxidant).

Fruit is classified as whole or cut fruit or 100% fruit juice that arrives on your plate (or in your glass) fresh, canned, frozen, dried or pureed.  A serving of fruit can be one large apple, one cup of natural applesauce, one cup of 100% fruit juice, one cup of grapes, one large orange, or eight big strawberries.  Two to four servings per day are recommended, the equivalent of one to three cups.  Following these recommendations allow the dietary fiber content of fruit to provide fullness without the high caloric content of many other diet choices.

Half of each plate should contain fruits and vegetables to ensure that all the nutritional value of your meal is to getting into your system.  Eating fruit raw will provide the best benefits since processing or canning can cause nutrients, vitamins and water to be lost.  A good way to get enough fruit is to keep whole fruit on the table or counter.  Pre-cut packages can be kept in the refrigerator with dip or low fat dressing, tossed on top of cereal, mixed in with waffles and pancakes, or stirred up with yogurt.  Make sure to clean fruit under running water and dry before preparing and eating, as well as keeping cleaned fruits away from raw meat, seafood and poultry.

Take an apple to work and keep sliced oranges in the refrigerator and you’ll be ready to get your proper amount of fruit per day!

For more information on the Fruit Group, check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruit.html, and come back in for our next installment, A Balanced Diet Part V: Meat, Poultry, Beans, Eggs and Nuts.