Raw Energy: A diet rich in antioxidants helps fight free radicals

By Brenda Richter

As we age, we are exposed to an increasing amount of free radicals found in our environment (such as pesiticides, pollution, smoke, etc.), and these numbers continue to rise. Free radicals are molecules that bond with cells in your body and cause damage to our cells and can lead to illnesses, including major degenerative diseases.

Although we can reduce our exposure to free radicals by living more green, reducing pollution, etc., we will never be able to escape free radicals. However, choosing a diet rich in antioxidants is something in our favor to fight the effect of free radicals.

Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging your body. Antioxidants are best found in fresh, whole, uncooked produce. Antioxidants include vitamins C and E, the mineral selenium and carotenoids, which is what gives our fresh produce the variety of colors and play an important role in our state of health.

Some good sources for antioxidant-rich foods include: berries, (particularly blueberries and blackberries), pomegranates, vegetables rich with color, cold-pressed oils (like flaxseed oil or hemp-seed oil), and fresh herbs and spices (like rosemary, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, etc.).

Nutritionally speaking, the benefit of a balanced plant-based diet is difficult to refute considering you’ll still get all the vitamins and essential nutrients you’d otherwise get from animal-based foods, plus the long-term rewards of the healthier, cleaner, leaner body you seek. Green, leafy vegetables have a higher percent of minerals than any other class of food, and fruit has the highest percent of vitamins.

Experience the difference, incorporate some of these nutrient-dense foods daily. For example, add some pomegranate arils or blueberries to your salad. Increase your energy with B-12 by trying a chlorella supplement. (Look for a brand that pressure-cracks the cell walls; try ChlorEssence, which contains no additives and is high in growth factors). Alternatively, sprinkle some nutritional yeast onto your green salad (not all brands are notable for their B12, so I suggest the brand Red Star). This is has a cheesy flavor, and it’s a great way to reduce and/or eliminate cheese from your salad. Consider that dairy products are the leader in forming sticky mucous. Try some fiber-rich vegetables you don’t normally purchase. Dulse flakes or nori are sea vegetables and are great sprinkled on green, leafy salads or in soups, or you can make a delicious wrap using nori. These sea vegetables are found easily in Asian markets or may also be found in health food stores or the health food aisle of grocery stores.

As you incorporate more raw foods or “new foods,” listen to your body and see if you notice a difference in your energy levels and mood so you can track your progress over time.

Check out my Web site or contact me for “Why Raw” talks, many of which are free. Or, take a class and learn how to make great tasting food that is more than plain veggies and fruit. Create classic dishes like chocolate mouse, lasagna, burgers, dips and more—all free from meat, dairy, pasta and refined foods. Experience the benefits.

Brenda Richter is a graduate of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, where she received her certification as a Raw Culinary Arts associate chef and instructor. She’s passionate about sharing the living foods lifestyle with others, and teaches raw culinary arts classes in the Rockford area.

From the March 17-23, 2010 issue

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