When we consume a rainbow of naturally coloured foods, we get more than just a delicious and attractive meal! The molecules that colour real food are so good for you. That rainbow of colours signals the presence of many different naturally occurring antioxidants. Human beings have always been attracted to bright colours in plant foods, and this is one reason the food industry has promoted the use of synthetic food dyes, to make their products more attractive to us.
All plant foods contain wonderful synergistic mixtures of nutrients that help the plant to grow, blossom, and fruit, and that also protect the plant from pests and disease. These same nutrients also feed and protect us. It is over-simplistic to think that one food is good for you for only one reason. Fruits and vegetables offer so many health benefits. When grown organically and picked ripe, their many nutritious benefits are maximized, along with their flavour.
Here are some of the best-known antioxidants in plant foods:
These antioxidants support each other’s functions: an antioxidant that has been used up in a biochemical reaction in the body can be regenerated by other plant antioxidants, so the body’s protective biochemistry is ready to go again!
Here are some tips for getting more out of these antioxidants:
Carotenoids are all better absorbed when eaten with some fat, and many plant anti-oxidants are carotenoids.
Lycopene in tomatoes is better absorbed if it is eaten with some fat, and when it is cooked; so cooked with oil works very well! Tomato sauce or ratatouille cooked with olive oil does the trick!
Beta carotene from plants is converted to vitamin A in the liver. If a person consumes lots of foods rich in beta carotene, the liver will convert just the right amount needed to Vitamin A. People cannot make too much vitamin A from the diet, but it is possible to over-supplement vitamin A to reach toxic levels. This is why we recommend getting what we need from a diet rich in beta carotene. Please note, if you consume a huge amount of beta carotene in your diet, your palms will take on an orangey tone, which is not at all harmful.
Green Leafy Vegetables: The sturdy green leafy veggies like kale, chard and collards are more easily digested when they are cooked, making their nutrients more bioavailable. See our recipe on leeks and greens
Vitamin C: We humans just can’t make vitamin C, unlike most other animals, so it’s especially important for us to get it in our food. Vitamin C is water soluble, which means we can’t store very much. We need to consume good sources of vitamin C every day.
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