By Dr. Farah Akram.
In this fast-paced world, half of our meals are on the go. That means more preservatives and chemicals in our foods. Add to that, the stress and anxiety that is the norm these days which increase harmful radicals in our body and reduce the body’s ability to neutralize them. Hence you end up with decreased immunity, frequent sickness and premature ageing. It would also be worthwhile to note that serious illnesses like heart conditions, stroke and cancer are also on the rise.
Now there are a lot of steps for a healthy life style ( I am sure you all have heard of balanced meals and regular exercise countless times!) but there are certain foods that are rich in antioxidants and regular intake of even small amounts of these can make a big difference in your health. These are known as SUPER FOODS! Super because they also have a nice balance of other vitamins and minerals that are good for you.
In case you are now thinking of just getting a bottle of antioxidant supplements as an easy fix – point to note supplements of any kind – antioxidants, vitamins, iron, calcium,etc, etc – do not work as effectively as those taken naturally. Supplements deliver higher amounts of vitamins than required, which neither gets absorbed plus it then stops other nutrients from getting absorbed as well. So, as always, nature offers the best solutions.
All berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and are so easy to add in diet. Add them to your milkshakes and smoothies or eat them in your cereal or pancake. Even simpler, just grab a handful as a quick and healthy snack. Berries are also known to reduce the risk of cancer. Cranberries in particular have been linked with low risk of cancers of breast, colon, lung and prostrate.
What a surprising common superfood. The darker the colour of the grape, the higher the level of antioxidants. So munch away!
Its winter so consumption of these are already high. Nuts not only contain a good level of antioxidants but they are also rich in the good kind of fat. They actually help to reduce cholesterol levels too. Consuming 8 almonds every day significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. It also improves memory.
- Dark Green Veggies:
Spinach, broccoli and kale are at the top of the list. Spinach again also offers high levels of natural iron as well as other vitamins. Too bad Popeye the Sailor Man are no longer running, it used to be a great way to get kids to eat spinach!
- Orange vegetables:
Carrots have always been branded the first choice for getting vitamin A. Now its double attraction is its high level of antioxidants. Other orange vegetables include pumpkin and sweet potatoes.
Yes tea makes the list of super foods. I am sure tea lovers would be delighted to know about this. Of course green tea has SLIGHTLY MORE antioxidants than regular tea, but still.
- Whole grains:
This refers to unprocessed flours without high levels of preservatives. So opt for multigrain or wholegrain (wholemeal) breads over white bread, brown rice over white and so on. It may take a bit getting used to, but it is worth the trouble. Whole grains also help keep the digestive system healthy and running smoothly. And of course they reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Definitely worth a try.
- Lentils and beans:
Lentils are a regular staple in our households. Black beans and kidney beans have just a bit higher level of antioxidants. However, you can see that making healthier food choices is not all that hard.
This too is a common dish during winters. Fish has one more benefit. They offer vitamin D which is not that common in foods. It is also a very important vitamin as many people in Pakistan are vitamin D deficient.
The only issue is that fried fish is the usual form of meal, which can take away some nutrients while adding extra and unnecessary fat. Whenever possible, go for a baked or steamed option.
- Dark chocolate:
Last but definitely not the least is dark chocolate. It is lower on preservatives and higher in antioxidants. Plus it is known to reduce blood pressure and cancer risks. The flavour is different from milk chocolate and more on the bittersweet side, but you have to try it.
This is not the entire list, but it’s a good start for a healthy you. Eat and enjoy!
Dr Farah Akram. May Allah guide us to all that is good and right. Ameen.