Dark chocolate for heart to blueberries for brain: Benefits of antioxidant foods | Health - Hindustan Times

Dark chocolate for heart to blueberries for brain: Benefits of antioxidant rich foods

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Nov 27, 2023 04:39 PM IST

From eye and brain health to heart and skin health, here are the foods that are rich in antioxidants to boost fitness levels of your different organs

Antioxidants have the capability to protect our bodies against the detrimental impacts of free radicals, potentially lowering the likelihood of specific diseases including (but not limited to) cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and chronic conditions associated with oxidative stress. These beneficial compounds are present in a variety of foods, with fruits and vegetables being notable sources.

Dark chocolate for heart to blueberries for brain: Benefits of antioxidant rich foods (Shutterstock)
Dark chocolate for heart to blueberries for brain: Benefits of antioxidant rich foods (Shutterstock)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dt Ruchi Rai, Dietitian at SRV Hospital in Goregaon, shared, “Such food items are frequently distinguished by their elevated fibre content, minimal levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, and an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in adults over age 50. Antioxidants may help to lower your chances of AMD by up to 25%. If you already have AMD, they can help you keep more of your vision. Vitamins C and E can lower the chance of cataracts. Antioxidants may also slow the progression of cataracts, letting people maintain better vision longer.”

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Talking about antioxidants for heart health, she said, “Antioxidants, found in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods, help protect blood vessels and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Additionally, antioxidants may enhance the function of endothelial cells lining the blood vessels, promoting proper blood flow and lowering blood pressure.” As for antioxidants for skin, the nutrition expert said, “Vitamins C and E are potent antioxidants with notable benefits for skin health. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, promotes collagen synthesis, aiding in skin elasticity and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Combining vitamins C and E in skincare products or through a balanced diet can enhance their beneficial effects on the skin.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Vedika Premani, Clinical Dietician at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai, explained, “Antioxidants are molecules that can help your body fight off harmful free radicals, which have been linked to benefit in various health conditions. Antioxidants are found in many plant-based foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, lycopene along with the minerals like selenium, zinc and manganese. Foods like dark chocolate, berries, green tea, green leafy vegetables, almonds, broccoli, and pink grapefruit are excellent sources of antioxidants and offer numerous health benefits.”

She added, “Antioxidants neutralise harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and cellular nerves damage and are linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Antioxidants may regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels and improve blood vessel function, contributing to better cardiovascular health. It support the immune system, helping the body fight infections and illnesses. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate chronic inflammation, and flu like symptoms. Antioxidants may slow the aging process by protecting cells and tissues from damage. It promotes healthier the skin by slowing down the process of aging and promote a healthy complexion by protection from UV damage, improved cognitive function as well as reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline.”

Talking about antioxidants for eye health, she said, “Certain antioxidants, like lutein and zeaxanthin in blueberries, can protect eye health and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Antioxidants may help to lower your chances of AMD by up to 25% and slow the progression of cataracts, helping people maintain good vision. To benefit from antioxidants, it is important to maintain a balanced diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, which are natural sources of antioxidant compounds. Include food preparations like smoothies, wholesome salads and vegetable soups, variety of seasonal fruits, dark chocolate-nutty balls and herbal teas can help boost the antioxidant content of your diet.”

Dt Ruchi Rai highlighted -

  • DARK CHOCOLATE: Dark chocolate possesses compounds that shield against the oxidation of LDL, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease. Additionally, it offers crucial minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese, all of which play a role in the formation of healthy blood cells, enhancement of the immune system, and the maintenance of healthy bones. The antioxidants found in cocoa and dark chocolate have been associated with notable health advantages, such as a decrease in inflammation and a reduction in risk factors for heart disease.
  • BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries are rich in potassium and vitamin C, aiding in the reduction of the risk of heart disease and cancer, and they also possess anti-inflammatory properties. Despite being low in calories, blueberries are densely packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Moreover, blueberries have been associated with the potential to delay the age-related decline in brain function, with researchers attributing this effect to the presence of antioxidants in blueberries. Despite their small size, blueberries pack a nutritious punch, containing a wealth of vitamins and minerals, and being particularly rich in anthocyanins, which act as potent antioxidants.
  • WALNUTS: Abundant in fibre, protein, and unsaturated fats, nuts serve as an excellent choice for a snack. In traditional Chinese medicine, walnuts, bearing an intriguing resemblance to the human brain, have been utilised for promoting brain health, contributing to the maintenance of healthy brain cells, and potentially enhancing memory. The standout feature of walnuts lies in their elevated polyphenol content. These compounds collaborate with antioxidants to ward off oxidative stress, potentially assisting in inflammation reduction, weight management, and the prevention of diseases such as cancer.
  • PLUMS: Plums serve as an excellent source of antioxidants. The phytochemicals and nutrients present in plums contribute to reducing inflammation, a key factor in triggering heart disease. Similar to prunes, plums aid in maintaining digestive regularity. Their high sorbitol content, a sugar alcohol, functions as a natural laxative, facilitating smooth movement through the digestive system.

Dt Ruchi Rai concluded, “Antioxidants play a crucial role in safeguarding the body against cell and tissue damage, thereby lowering the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and cancer. A diet rich in antioxidants has the potential to reduce the likelihood of various diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. The action of antioxidants involves scavenging free radicals from body cells, preventing or minimizing the damage caused by oxidation. To attain a healthy and well-balanced diet, it is advisable to incorporate a diverse range of foods from the five main groups: vegetables and legumes or beans, fruit, whole grain foods and cereals, lean meat, poultry or alternatives such as fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as dairy and dairy alternatives, with a preference for reduced-fat options.”

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