What’s With Antioxidants Anyway?!

If you have paid any attention to the food industry, nutrition news, health, the latest food trends on yahoo or google news, or retail marketing in the past 10 plus years than you have probably heard the word “antioxidant” being used. You can find antioxidant rich this and that advertised everywhere it seems these days. So what does that mean and how does it or can it affect you??

Antioxidants:

Let’s start by explaining what the word actually means…we have two main parts to the word…”anti” and “oxi”. We might interpret that as “against oxygen” but let’s look deeper. There is a big distinction between the words oxygenation and oxidation. Oxygen is important and oxygenation is an increase in oxygen to a particular area or tissue and that is a very good thing! Oxidation is when oxygen combines with another substance to break something down…think rust…when oxygen combines with iron you get rust…this we do not want.

So when you think “antioxidant” think “anti-oxidation” or anti – breakdown. And since breakdown is exactly what we do not want more of in our bodies, than antioxidants are a very good thing. Antioxidants are compounds that help us fight against damage from oxidation. Our bodies are constantly reacting with oxygen as we breathe and as our cells create energy. “But this process along with poor quality foods and pollution can create an abundance of highly reactive molecules in our system called free radicals.” Before we talk more on antioxidants and where to find them…let’s get into free radicals…..

Free Radicals:

If antioxidants are the good guys than free radicals are the bad guys. “Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that are missing electrons. Free radicals bounce around looking to replace the missing electrons and cause our cells oxidative damage. They can damage proteins, cell membranes and even genes. Oxidative damage has been implicated in the cause of many diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s and is also said to accelerate the aging process. This is where antioxidants come in handy. They are rich in electrons and neutralize free radicals, stopping their oxidative damage in its tracks.”

Free radicals are a natural by-product of various cell activities, (and are used by the body in certain functions in a controlled environment) but can also be created through exposure to tobacco smoke, chemicals, UV radiation, other environmental factors and can come from poor quality, processed foods as well. And living in this day and age we have greatly disrupted this balance of just enough free radicals to an absolute overload of free radicals in and around us. Even the “healthiest” of folks need to take heed.

Here’s a quick 2 minute video of how free radicals and antioxidants work in the body….

Sources of Free Radicals and What to Avoid:

The major sources of dietary free radicals are chemically-altered fats from commercial vegetable oils, vegetable shortening and all oils heated to very high temperatures. If you are still using “foods” like refined vegetable oils, margarine or shortening (or “foods” made with them such as all commercial baked goods and “snack” chips), you need to remove them from your diet. Replace these harmful fats with natural, cold pressed oils such as olive oil (which can be used for cooking) and small amounts of flax oil or walnut oil (which should never be heated). Food grade, unrefined coconut oil and organic butter are also excellent choices, especially for cooking.

Excessive sugar intake can also contribute to free radical damage. White and brown sugars, and even sugar from so-called natural sources, such as fruit and fruit juices, maple syrup and honey, get converted into triglycerides by the liver and are subject to free radical damage. These damaged fats then promptly attack your arteries and directly contribute to cardiovascular disease. “Cancer and tumor cells feed off of sugar. It is for this reason that excessive sugar intake correlates very strongly with heart disease, cancer and a host of other ailments.”

Free radicals are also released in the body from the detoxification of drugs (legal or illegal), artificial food colorings and flavorings, smog, preservatives in processed foods, alcohol, cigarette smoke, chlorinated drinking water, pesticides, radiation, cleaning fluids, heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, and assorted chemicals.

Even psychological and emotional stress can cause contribute to free radical damage. “When the body is under stress, it produces certain hormones that generate free radicals. Moreover, the liver must eventually detoxify them and that process also generates free radicals.”

Ahhhh! The Bad Guys are Everywhere!!

So uh, yeah they are kinda all around us even as we try to avoid them. So, now how to we counteract these crazed “free wheeling radicals” from taking over our lives??!! What’s that saying…”an ounce prevention…blah, blah”. That is where antioxidants come into play! For every truly bad guy, there is a super hero lurking nearby…

BENEFITS OF ANTIOXIDANTS

  • Reduces the risk of heart disease, blood pressure and stroke
  • Prevents degeneration of tissues and so,risk of cancer is reduced
  • Delays aging process
  • Arrests degeneration of brain
  • Reduces harmful damage to skin due to exposure to sun
  • Enhances immunity against infections

Where to Find Antioxidants:

The main antioxidants are certain vitamins and minerals like vitamin E and C, betacarotene, and other carotenoids, glutathione, bioflavonoids, selenium, zinc, CoQ10 (ubiquinone), and various phyto-chemicals from herbs and foods.

There is a wide variety of foods that are flooded with antioxidants, so all of us can find something or two we like and they come in all different flavors, textures and colors. You may notice that many antioxidant rich foods are very colorful. That is because in most cases, the color IS the antioxidant. For example the bright orange of carrots and goji berries is from the antioxidant compound called beta-carotene. “So whether you’re a chocoholic, a berry lover, or a green food fan, you’ll be able to find your favorite source of antioxidants.”

Antioxidants can be broken into two general categories: antioxidant nutrients (including phytonutrients) and antioxidant enzymes. Vitamins, minerals and the various -noids, like carotenoids (colorful veggies and leafy greens) and flavonoids are considered antioxidant nutrients while antioxidant enzymes include superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx).

To get a good mix of all of the above eat the following antioxidant rich foods….(there are alot, here are just a few)

  • Berries: blueberries (esp wild), elderberries, acai, goji, chokeberries, cranberries, black currants, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
  • Plums and prunes
  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Cacao (super high!)
  • Tomatoes
  • Red and orange peppers
  • Cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Beets, carrots, sweet potatoes
  • Small red beans and red kidney beans
  • Red grapes and Red wine
  • Green Tea and Yerba Mate
  • Selenium activates certain antioxidant enzymes so be sure to eat plenty high quality, selenium rich and ideally organic eggs, chicken and fresh garlic, brazil nuts and walnuts
  • Artichokes

Many popular herbs are a great source of natural antioxidants as well. Although we might have to eat more herbs to get the equivalent total amount of antioxidants consumed in fruits and vegetables, supplementing an otherwise balanced diet with herbs may be beneficial to our health.

Some of your favorite herbs and spices might be on this list… clove, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, curry powder, mustard seed,ginger, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic, coriander, onion and cardamom, as well assage, thyme, margoram, tarragon, peppermint, savory, basil and dill weed.

Take Home Message:

The more antioxidants you get, the better and as mama says…eat your fruits and veggies and a wide variety of colorful ones at that. Reduce stress, get plenty of sleep, be happy and and don’t forget to add herbs and spices to your dishes!!

Sources:
Weston A. Price Foundation
Sunfood

How to Make Your Own Greek Yogurt…By the Health Nuts at Korduroy TV!

The crew at Korduroy TV run the range of providing great surf films, hilarious surf films and footage, always interesting and often inspiring “inner views”, killer DIY projects and a page called “Health Nuts” where they always present ways to cheaply, efficiently and healthily (if that’s a word) whip up some favorites…from foundation foods to funky foods.  Here is a link to their “How to Make Greek Yogurt” video….check it out and do it up!  After watching the video, that page provides the written description of how awesome yogurt can be and how to do what the video showed.

 

 

Every Day Is Love and Recipes!

As with most holidays, I am also not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day….like the rest of “our” holidays, it too has become commercialized with the goal of making you buy, buy buy!!  Not to mention why do we set just ONE day aside for love….Every day is love! So why not make, make,make….We all know that taking the time for your loved one is most important and taking the time to make them something yummy is often pretty awesome as well.  So here are some healthy love recipes to share…not only are you taking the time for your babe but you are also thinking about their health in the meantime…cuz you really do want them around with your for as long as possible!  (You will also be able to find these recipes on the dessert page under recipes!)

Raw Chocolate:

  • 1/4 lb cocoa butter
  • 1 lb coconut cream concentrate from Tropical Traditions (online) (it is whole coconut meat in concentrated form. It contains no additives (not even water). The dried coconut meat is ground very finely, giving it a creamy consistency due to its high fat content…do not substitute with cream of coconut used for pina coladas!) If you need to substitute…use 12 oz of coconut milk, pressing out as much water as you can

Melt and Blend the above

  • 1/2 cup carob powder
  • 1 cup cocoa nibs
  • 1 cup cocoa powder

Slowly Mix the three above to the melted first 2 ingredients

Add your favorite sweetener…agave syrup, maple syrup….to taste…start with about 1/4 cup then taste and add as needed (ideally keeping it light!)

Add peanut butter or almond butter if you like and pour in whatever containers or pan or molds that you like and let it set in a cool place for a few hours…checking from time to time.  Then dive in!!

Black and Blue Berry Crisp:

Fruit:

  • 3 cups fresh blackberries
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup apple juice or cider
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons organic raw cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • fine sea salt

For the fruit:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Place blackberries & blueberries in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine the apple juice/cider, maple syrup, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, and a pinch of salt.  Whisk in the arrowroot and pour over the berry mixture

For the topping:

  • In a small bowl, combine the coconut oil & maple syrup and whisk well.  In a separate bowl, combine the walnuts, flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Mix well and add the coconut oil and syrup mixture.  Toss well until combined.
  • Transfer the berry filling to a 9×13 inch baking dish and evenly sprinkle the topping over the berries.  Bake for 10 minutes then lower the temp to 350 degrees and bake another 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling.
  • Serve warm with coconut milk or coconut water ice cream

Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie with Nut Crust:

Nut Crust:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut
  • 8 large dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut

For the crust:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Combine the almonds, pecans, flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a food processor and grind to a fine meal.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the coconut.  Add the dates and coconut oil to the food processor and process until the dates form a gooey mass, about 1 minute.  Add the dry ingredients back into the food processor and process until everything is mixed well and starts to form a ball
  • Transfer the dough to a 9 inch pie tin.  Knead the dough for a minute or so to ensure that the oil is evenly distributed.  Press the dough into the pan, making sure that the bottom sides and rim are covered….the sides should b slightly thicker than the bottom.  With a fork, prick several holes into the bottom of the crust. Set asid

For the filling:

  • In a blender, combine the almond or coconut milk and arrowroot and puree for 30 seconds.  Add the banana and puree for another 15 seconds.  Set aside
  • In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate chips.  In a large bowl, immediately combine the melted chocolate chips with the milk mixture, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut oil, pecans, and coconut.  Mix well. Scrape the filling into the crust with a rubber spatula and spread evenly.
  • Place the pie on a cookie sheet.  Cover the crust with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling is firm.
  • Remove from oven, let cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let it set before serving.

Fresh Mango Cobbler: (from Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen)

Crust:

  • 3 cups pecans, dry
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup pitted dates

Syrup:

  • 3/4 cup pitted dates
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2/3 cup water as needed

Filling:

  • 3-4 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded, sliced…about 6 cups

Crust:

  • Process pecans, vanilla beans, and salt into a powder in a food processor.  Add 3/4 cup pitted dates and process until mixed well.  Sprinkle half of the crust onto the bottom of a pie dish and set aside.  (Don’t bother cleaning out your food processor…the left over crumbs will add to the syrup mix)

Syrup:

  • Process 3/4 cup dates, oil and vanilla bean and water as needed to make a thick syrup.  Set aside.

Filling:

  • Place sliced mango into a large mixing bowl.  Toss with the syrup.  Spoon onto cobbler crust

To serve, top with the remaining half of the crust.  Will keep for 2 days in the fridge.

Peanut Butter Cocoa Truffles: (from Sunfood)

Ingredients:

1- 16 jar of organic or all natural peanut or almond butter
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 – 3/4 cup cacao powder
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or pure extract)
dash of sea salt

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process thoroughly. Add to a bowl. Form mixture into small balls, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Put in freezer for about 15 minutes to set. Optional: Sprinkle cacao powder and cayenne powder on top for a spicy kick.

Krazy Kale Kreations

Here’s a great quickie of a recipe that we have been playing around with the last few days and now I think we got it!  Guess I have to give it a name….

Kale Choas:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of Kale (equivalent to a bunch of curly kale at any old grocery store)
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup shredded carrot (raw)
  • 1 cup shredded beet (raw)
  • 1 mango, peeled and chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 10-15 grape or cherry tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 cup + fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime (if it’s not a juicy one, go with 1)
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt to taste

Prep:

  • Very lightly steam the kale and broccoli together (broccoli on bottom while steaming)
  • Combine the rest of the ingredient in a bowl

  • Add the steamed broccoli and kale after it has cooled a few minutes

And enjoy a nutrient dense yummy salad of sorts!!!!

GMO’s: Get Monsanto Out!

With all the news of Monsanto these day, all the people fighting back….here is a film to watch to let you in on what is up.  This is an excellent – short film that all should see!  It effects each and everyone of us and to deny that is to deny what is going on around you. Please, please pretty please take the 6 minutes out of your busy life and watch!!

This film was created by Jeremy Seifert who also did the film I posted awhile back…called “Dive: Living Off America’s Waste”…here he is again as a food and people advocate….thanks Jeremy!!

For more info on what is happening in the world of food and food freedom…check out Food Democracy Now.