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13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

We hear a lot about antioxidants. As far as popular health-related topics go, “antioxidant foods” is up there with “gluten,” “organic,” and “non-GMO.” If you’ve ever wondered what antioxidants actually are, though, you’re not alone. Here is the basic rundown:

Antioxidants are chemical compounds often found naturally in food, which, once consumed, negate the effects of free radicals in the human body. This is an important process because wherever an excess of free radicals accumulates, it can damage your DNA — which in turn can contribute to cancer growth.

The result of free radical accumulation is called “oxidative stress,” and is associated with a number of other diseases as well, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.[1] Hence, consuming healthy levels of antioxidant foods is one way of protecting against cancer and other diseases.

“Can’t I just avoid free radicals?” you might ask. Unfortunately, you really can’t. Free radicals are everywhere, including in many foods, medicines, and the environment itself. They’re in the air we breathe and the water we drink, not to mention being a natural byproduct of biological processes in the body.

So what do you do? Since there are a lot of risk factors for disease we can’t control (such as aging and genetics), it seems logical to take advantage of those we can. One easy way is to maintain a healthy diet full of antioxidants.

You want to avoid heavily processed foods advertised as containing high levels of antioxidants, since this usually means synthetic antioxidants have been added to the food. Studies indicate that these man-made compounds are not only less protective, but may in fact be damaging to human health.[2]

Bottom line: you want the majority of your antioxidants to come from whole, natural foods, such as these:

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1. Pecans

Native to Mexico and some southern U.S. states, the famous nut behind “pecan pie” is quite healthy (even if the pie is not). Pecans contain fiber, protein, flavonoids, vitamins, and unsaturated fats. They wouldn’t top this list if they weren’t also a fantastic source of antioxidant compounds.

Control yourself, though, because pecans are also high in calories — a handful goes a long way.

2. Blueberries

Blueberries may contain the highest amount of antioxidants among all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables, making them the poster-child for antioxidative benefits.[3]

While still inconclusive, research indicates that the particular antioxidants in blueberries work to delay effects of aging on the brain (in other words, preventing or delaying cognitive decline).[4]

Add in the fact that they’re nutritious in many other ways, not to mention delicious, and you’ve got an antioxidant that’s equally at home on the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table.

3. Strawberries

Strawberries are a great source of vitamin C, manganese, folate (vitamin B9), and potassium. They’re also naturally rich in antioxidants that help with both heart health and blood sugar control.

Despite their sweetness, strawberries are full of water, making them a low-carb choice. Plus eating them can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation.[5]

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4. Artichokes

Humans have revered artichokes for their health benefits and medicinal properties for centuries. Contemporary research backs up our ancestors’ appreciation of this edible blossom of a thistle plant.[6]

Low in fat, packed with fiber, full of vitamins, minerals, and of course, antioxidants, an artichoke-a-day could indeed keep the doctor away.

5. Raspberries

If you think there’s a “berry” noticeable theme to this list, you’re right. In addition to blueberries and strawberries, the raspberry is well-known for its antioxidative properties. Like blueberries, raspberries are also jammed full of compounds called anthocyanins, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

Raspberries are so powerful that one study of test-tube cancers showed that the antioxidants found in them managed to kill 90 percent of colon, breast, and stomach cancers.[7] Several other studies have linked the antioxidants and other components in raspberries to lower risks of cancer and heart disease.

6. Kale

Anything from the cruciferous vegetable family is a healthy choice, and kale is no exception. It’s one of the most nutritious green vegetables there is, providing vitamins A, C, and K, as well as loads of calcium and numerous antioxidant compounds.[8]

Red varieties of kale, such as redbor and Russian kale, pack an extra punch thanks to the same anthocyanins found in blueberries and raspberries. These compounds give the varieties (and berries) their color, and often indicate that they have twice the amount of antioxidants as green kale.

7. Spinach

Spinach leaves are one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables on the planet. Spinach may not give you Popeye-sized muscles, but it certainly provides you with a boatload of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help with immune support, serve as brain boosters, and provide defense against cancer and other chronic illnesses.

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8. Lemons

Most of us don’t consume raw lemons on a regular basis, but if you were to glance at the famous yellow citrus’s nutritional profile, you might start to think we should.

Lemons are high in vitamin C, folate (B9), potassium, flavonoids and antioxidants. This makes them not only great for relieving oxidative stress, but also for supporting heart, immune, and reproductive health.[9]

9. Bananas

Reading through this list, you may have gathered that fruits and vegetables tend to be excellent sources of dietary antioxidants. Luckily for us on-the-go eaters, bananas are no exception. Catechins and dopamine are two components in bananas that provide a great deal of antioxidative benefits, including lowered risks of heart disease and lowered cognitive degeneration.[10]

10. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a great source of nutrition for the simple reason that it’s likely already sitting on a shelf in your pantry. In addition to its large store of antioxidants, cinnamon is known to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, making it an all around super-spice.

11. Oregano

Refusing to let cinnamon dominate the anti-oxidative spice category, oregano (and oregano oil) has been found to contain a high number of antioxidant compounds. It’s also got plenty of vitamin K, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

The great thing about oregano (aside from its health benefits) is that it’s readily available and makes a delicious addition to dishes of all kinds, from pizzas and salads to chili, soup, or stew.

12. Russet Potatoes

“A potato?” you ask. Yes, Russet potatoes rank among the highest antioxidant providers in the vegetable category.[11]. They’re starchy, which may downgrade them as a choice for anyone worried about blood sugar levels.

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All in all, these root veggies are a great source of not only antioxidants, but also iron, potassium, and vitamins C and B6.

13. Dark Chocolate

This is a classic example of saving the best for last. Depending on what kind of chocolate you’re talking about (and who’s measuring), dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than both blueberries and raspberries. As a rule of thumb, the higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants are in the chocolate.

Fiber, iron, potassium, manganese, and copper are just a few more of the many healthy nutrients that dark chocolate provides.[12]

Bottom Line

Despite the deliciousness of the foods on this list, the unfortunate truth is that no amount of antioxidants in your diet can alter your genetic predisposition for disease, stop you from aging,[13] or undo the effects of a poor overall diet and lifestyle.

What will do the trick is a balanced diet full of whole foods (raw or cooked) like vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats, along with a good exercise regimen and healthy amount of sleep.

Add in extra antioxidants on top of that, and you’re well on your way to being a specimen of perfect health.

Featured photo credit: Cecilia Par via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dr. David Minkoff

Health Expert | CEO BodyHealth | Co-Owner and Medical Director at Lifeworks Wellness Center | Author

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

Reference

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