Most people associate cold and flu season with the holidays. What they seem to forget is that cold and flu season actually extends well beyond Christmas and the New Year. Seasonal flu outbreaks can occur as early as October and last well into May. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to keep your immune system healthy with a diet rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are free radical scavengers which means they neutralize the molecules that lead to cellular damage. Cellular damage can lead to inflammation which compromises the ability of our immune system. Most antioxidants are naturally occurring and are found in fresh fruits and vegetables. One way to figure out the amount of antioxidants in the foods you’re eating is to look at its ORAC rating. ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) units are a means to measure antioxidants, developed by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). You can find a complete list of foods here or here.
5 Ways to Boost Your Daily Antioxidant Intake:
1. Fresh Citrus: ORAC 2,103
Living in Florida means access to lots and lots of fresh citrus. Oranges are full of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant, they also contain phytonutrients and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are the compounds that give blood oranges their rich red color and berries their blue and purple hues. All of these compounds combine to make oranges a great source for antioxidants.
2. Cherries: ORAC 3,747
Fresh sweet cherries are another fruit rich in anthocyanins. The darker the cherry, the more antioxidants it contains. According to Dr. Michael T. Murray, researchers at Michigan State University found that anthocyanins from cherries are able to block both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, which contribute to inflammatory processes.
3. Ground Turmeric: ORAC 127,068
Turmeric is the most wonderfully orange spice that contains powerful antioxidants known as curcuminoids. It’s long been used in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Indian cooking. In recent years, it’s gained popularity and turmeric supplements have popped up everywhere. I recommend cooking with turmeric or adding it to a smoothie. To make sure you’re absorbing it, pair it with a fat like coconut oil. For complex cases, supplementation can be helpful. For day to day health, consider adding it to at least one meal per day.
4. Powdered Greens: ORAC 40,000+
I’m a big fan of Amazing Grass greens powders. I like that one scoop gives you a powerful punch of antioxidants plus a big burst of energy. The energy that I get from my greens easily trumps a cup of coffee – they’re that good! Adding it to a smoothie is the best way to actually enjoy the product. I know a lot of people who will mix greens with water and tolerate them. I can promise you that you’ll soon be craving the kick you get from adding greens to you daily diet.
5. Chocolate: ORAC 245,100
Yes. You read correctly. Only this isn’t your run of the mill Hershey’s Chocolate Bar. It’s Superfood Chocolate created by ALOHA that combines Peruvian fair-trade organic cacao with nutritious superfood greens. Cacao nibs have long been known as the “food of the Gods” because of their incredible mood boosting and antioxidant properties. If you’re going to treat yo’ self, it might as well be with the good stuff!
As an added bonus, you can find recipes to boost your antioxidant intake here.
What are your favorite antioxidant rich foods? How to you stay well through Cold and Flu season?