We talk about inflammation a lot on the blog and in our programs, and for a good reason because it is often seen as the silent killer.
We have acute inflammation which is in response to an injury, such as cutting your knee on the pavement. This is helpful, necessary inflammation.
Then we have chronic inflammation, where we are living in an inflamed and constant state of stress day after day, making it very hard for our bodies to heal. It is the most dangerous kind of inflammation, as it's the underlying cause of every autoimmune disease, adrenal fatigue, gut issue, and more.
The first step towards reducing inflammation is by removing foods that cause it such as sugar, gluten, dairy, and junk foods. Replacing these foods with antioxidant-rich foods can help fast track the healing (and thriving) process.
Antioxidants have many vital functions to our health. We are exposed to toxins on a daily basis, often from air pollution, radiation, food, and stress. Because of this exposure, we want to be sure we are taking preventive measures to protect our body against free radicals.
Antioxidants help fight the free radicals which can damage our mitochondria (the powerhouse of our cells that keep us young and high-functioning). When we pay particular attention to including antioxidants in our diet, we can help remove and reverse the damage of free radicals and boost our mitochondrial health, which means our brains work better, our energy is high, we feel strong in our bodies, and our moods are good.
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is the unit of measurement for antioxidant capacity. A food’s ORAC number shows how much antioxidant capability it has within our body. This is very helpful, as opposed to trying to guess how much benefit it will have in the body.
Foods Highest in ORAC:
Turmeric contains anti-inflammatory properties, and because of its high ORAC rating, it increases the antioxidant capacity within the body.
Cinnamon (Ceylon) is a potent, yet sweeter spice which is different than traditional Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon has many medicinal benefits from anti-clotting to antifungal; however, our favorite is its effect on blood sugar control. We love it in our golden milk latte.
Ground cloves are packed with nutrition and often used in Ayurvedic medicine; they have antifungal and antibacterial properties and rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as the mineral manganese.
Dried oregano is from the mint family and high in antioxidants but also serves as a natural antiviral and antimicrobial agent.
Acai is a delicious, super-fruit berry from the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Acai is very high on the ORAC scale and contains fatty acids such as oleic acid and linoleic acid. Acai also contains healthy dietary fiber and minerals such as copper, iron, and magnesium. Check out this amazing chocolate acai sauce recipe, here.
And good news for chocolate lovers, raw cacao is also very high on the ORAC scale.
It is essential to include these high ORAC value foods in your daily routine because by doing so, you're giving your body the antioxidant power to age in a graceful and healthy way.
When we talk about antioxidants, we're usually referring to direct antioxidants. While they are inferior to indirect antioxidants in long-lasting efficacy (they extinguish a free radical, and then they are “used up”), they are essential and have many healing benefits to the body. Direct Antioxidants are vitamins and minerals that we directly consume from whole foods. Sources of direct antioxidants are:
- Vitamin C sources include persimmons, oranges, red bell peppers, Camu Camu, acai, kiwi
- Vitamin E sources include sunflower seeds and avocados
- Selenium (can serve as both a direct and indirect antioxidant because it is a precursor to glutathione, an indirect antioxidant. Sources are: brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, grass-fed beef, and sardines. Eating just 2-5 organic brazil nuts/daily exceeds the recommended daily allowance. Brazil nut milk, anyone? It’s delicious!
- Beta Carotene sources include pumpkin squash and orange root vegetables such as carrots
- Anthocyanidins are blue and purple antioxidants found in blueberries and blackberries
Research is spreading light on this newer side of antioxidants and includes the role of indirect antioxidants. Indirect antioxidants stimulate the body to create its own store of antioxidant production as well as activate and recycle detoxification enzymes (such as the most common antioxidant superstar, glutathione). Indirect antioxidants help your body continue to kill free radicals for hours after consumption and they go after heavy metals in the body like a champ!
Some indirect sources include:
- Sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, and cabbage.
- Resveratrol is rich in phytonutrients and helps reduce inflammation within the body and also supports our brain, cardiovascular health and mitochondria health. Resveratrol is found naturally in cacao, organic grapes, and organic blueberries.
- Turmeric combined with black pepper improves the bioavailability of the active antioxidant component in turmeric called curcumin. This is why we love the supplement Curcum-Evail.
- Glutathione has my heart. It is the master antioxidant in the body. Exercise boosts glutathione, as do sulfur-rich foods. Taking Liposomal Glutathione or the precursor, N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is a great way to support cellular function and increase the antioxidant capacity within the body. Annually, I do a 4-6 weekly round of Glutathione IVs to clean up my cells from environmental toxins, pull out any accumulated heavy metals, and to give my adrenals a giant hug.
The way we prepare our foods can also enhance the antioxidant content, for example, steaming (instead of broiling or frying) can increase the antioxidant value by two-fold.
Purchasing local and organic produce is the best way to ensure you are receiving the highest quality of antioxidants, while also supporting local farmers. Often when purchasing from large grocery stores, fruits and vegetables travel very far and are exposed to high heat, which can significantly reduce the antioxidant and nutritional value.
Oxidative stress is the reason we age, which is an entirely healthy and natural process.We can age so much more gracefully by including antioxidant-rich foods and supplements into our diet. My chronological age is 39, but I recently took a cellular test (TeloYears) to see how old my actual cells are, which is our true and real age. Turns out, I’m really only 30 years old. 😉 I recommend checking out TeloYears and taking their cellular test because they also provide coaching on how you can protect your cells and live longer.
Check out these recipes below, which combine two (or more!) direct antioxidants in a meal. This means you get the longer lasting effect of an indirect antioxidant where the food combination continues to extinguish free radicals for a longer period of time after consumption. Pretty cool food as medicine stuff, right?
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Acai Sauce
Warm Quinoa Spinach Salad with Tomatoes
Antioxidant Carrot Soup
Medicinal Mushroom and Broccoli Saute with Arame
Summer Beet Soup