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Antioxidants are natural cancer fighters

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By Maryellen Garrison

Antioxidants are substances found in food. They may help block damage to cells in the body caused by free radicals. Free radicals are substances formed during normal body processes. If not blocked, free radicals may contribute to the development of certain diseases, including cancer and heart disease.

Antioxidants are found mainly in fruits and vegetables. The most important antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, including beta carotene. Vitamin C is thought to reduce the risk for cataracts, some cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Carotenoids from a variety of fruits and vegetables may protect against some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and cataracts. Other antioxidants include lycopene and lutein. 

Many people take supplements containing antioxidants, but research at the American Heart Association indicates that foods are the best sources.

Wild blueberries, 1 cup – 13,427 antioxidants per serving

Red kidney beans, ½ cup — 13,259

Pinto beans, ½ cup — 11,864

Cultivated blueberries, 1 cup — 9,019

Cranberries, 1 cup — 8,983

Artichoke hearts, 1 cup cooked — 7,904

Blackberries, 1 cup — 7,701

Prunes, ½ cup — 7,291

Raspberries, 1 cup — 6,058

Strawberries, 1 cup — 5,938

Red delicious apples, 1 med — 5,900

Granny Smith apples, 1 med — 5,381

Pecans, 1 oz. — 5,095

Sweet cherries, 1 cup — 4m873

Black plums, 1 whole — 4,844

Russett potatoes, 1 whole — 4,639

Black beans, ½ cup — 4,181

Red plums, 1 med — 4,118

Gala apples, 1 med — 3,903

Source: USDA

Foods We Should Probably Eat More Of!

Stuck in a food rut? You don’t have to go far to find some overlooked food choices that are easy to prepare, pack a nutritional wallop, and avoid unhealthy fats.

Avocado

Sure, it’s great in guacamole. But why not try chopping it into chunks for a super salad topper? Or next time you make a sandwich, add thin avocado slices for a superfood treat. Avocado offers: heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat, Vitamins A and E, B vitamins, potassium, copper

Sweet potato

Toss cubes of these terrific fat-free tubers with chunks of carrot and apple. Drizzle with olive oil, season to taste and pop in the oven until golden brown. Sweet potatoes provide: Five times your daily dose of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber

Soybeans

Soybeans show up in lactose-free milk substitutes as well as stir-fry favorites, tempeh and tofu. The beans themselves taste wonderful roasted and salted in the pods, steamed as a side dish, or chilled on salads. Soybeans serve up: 40 percent of your daily protein intake in one cup, fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorous and magnesium.

Dried figs

Tasty as fig cookies are, figs stand on their own. Sneak these sweet snacks into casseroles. Replace raisins in a salad. Or just pop a few in your mouth. Figs are full of: fiber, potassium, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Lentils

Try lentils tossed with rice or baked in a casserole. Or seek out spicy, spreadable lentil dips at ethnic food stores and eclectic supermarkets. Lentils are loaded with: 40 percent of your daily protein intake in one cup, 65 percent of your daily fiber dose in one cup, potassium, calcium, iron, B vitamins, phosphorous and copper.

Kale

More robust and chewy than the ever popular spinach, dark and leafy kale is perfect for steaming. Top with diced sautéed garlic, sesame seeds and a splash of soy sauce. Or try making some Kale chips!  Kale packs a punch with: Twice your daily intake of vitamin A in one cup (cooked), vitamin C, small amount of B vitamins, calcium and iron.

Barley

Super in soups and smashing in casseroles, barley makes a dazzling addition to any meal. Try pearled barley as a rice substitute, or boil to create a unique stir-fry base. Barley boosts your healthy eating habits with: protein, 25 percent of your daily fiber needs in one cup, potassium, phosphorous and iron.

Each of these foods provides an opportunity for new tastes and added nutrition. Give them a try! 

 

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.