We’ve all heard of ‘superfoods’ that can help boost our health and wellbeing, from oily fish rich in omega 3 helping boost brain power to the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric. Some superfoods seem to suddenly gain almost celebrity status, such as goji berries, high in protein and rich in antioxidants – and incredibly chewy when dried!
The benefits of berries
Many bright-coloured berries are a rich source of antioxidant vitamins C and A. These vitamins can boost our immune system, helping us fight off winter colds and flu. So a handful with breakfast, or as a snack can be very beneficial at this time of year.
Antioxidants combat oxidative stress, which has been linked to the process of ageing, and the development of cancer, heart disease, and neuronal degenerative diseases such as as Alzheimer’s. Primary antioxidants inhibit the start of oxidation, while secondary antioxidants slow down the oxidation process.
The level of antioxidants in foods is measured using the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score. It’s great to see, in terms of their anti-oxidant properties, how many native North American berries are just as effective (and in many cases, more so) than the Chinese goji berry. (Figures are for raw, not cooked.)
- goji berries 3,290
- cherries 3,747
- pomegranates 4,479
- blueberries (farmed) 4,669
- blackberries 5,905
- cranberries 9,090
- blueberries (wild) 9,621
- elderberries 14,697
- chokeberries (aronia) 16,062
Spice up your life
Most spices have high ORAC levels; for example, thyme has an ORAC score of 27,426 and nutmeg has a massive ORAC score of 69,640! However, since you consume so little at a time, the effect is less. Combining antioxidant ingredients in a curry can also help, as chilli powder has an ORAC of 21,827, cumin seeds an ORAC of 50,372 and grated root ginger (which you’ll eat more of) has an ORAC of 14,840.
Your Christmas cakes and cookies can also potentially pack an antioxidant punch; just look at these figures!
- ground ginger 39,041
- ground nutmeg 69,640
- ground cinnamon 131,420
- ground cloves 290,283
Many berries have more tricks under their skin than just anti-oxidant properties. Blueberries have been shown to improve heart and vascular function, and also neurocognitive benefits including improving memory and reducing symptoms of depression.
Flavonoids are the chemicals in fruit and veg responsible for bright colours. and have been shown to improve heart and vascular function. Recent research from the University of Reading shows that anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids, can help improve visual and spatial memory and attention span in children. There’s also growing interest in the antibacterial effects of flavonoids, which might lead to their use to treat bacterial infection**)
The best antioxidant foods
There is no one dietary antioxidant food that is ‘the best’ as while foods may have similar ORAC levels, their effectiveness can vary enormously. There is also no definitive criteria of what constitutes a ‘healthy’ oxidative level as this varies from person to person. It still appears that a well-balanced healthy diet combined with regular exercise is the ideal. These are two of the foundations of our ReJuv program here at AMG London – call us for details, or ask your AMG GP or healthcare specialist.
Concerned about your diet?
At AMG London, we offer a variety of services including dietary advice to help you keep healthy. Call us for details, or come and see us – our Apple A Day bistro serves healthy snacks and lunches that are well worth the visit alone!
** Taylor PW, Hamilton-Miller JM, Stapleton PD (2005). “Antimicrobial properties of green tea catechins”. Food Science and Technology Bulletin. 2 (7): 71–81. PMC 2763290 Freely accessible. PMID 19844590. doi:10.1616/1476-2137.14184.
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