Move over, fruits and vegetables. Make room, chocolate and red wine. There are other health-promoting antioxidants in our diets that we’ve ignored. In fact, until recently, no one realized they were so high in polyphenols – plant based antioxidants that remove dangerous free radicals.
As you may know, free radicals can damage cells and tissues, leading to numerous diseases. This is why it’s so important to include foods high in antioxidants in your meals. Now you can add whole grains to the antioxidant-rich category.
In the past, we thought it was the fiber these foods contained that helped reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer. Now we know there's more to them than just fiber. It’s their antioxidants, as well. That’s what a group of scientists — the first to measure the antioxidants in breakfast cereals and snacks — were surprised to find.
Whole wheat was highest in polyphenols. Unfortunately, it’s a forbidden food for anyone who is gluten intolerant. And many of us are gluten intolerant and don’t even know it. Next came corn, oats, and rice.
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So if you want to eat a healthy diet that’s rich in antioxidants, feel free to eat grains. Choose foods such as breakfast cereals that contain the most whole grains. They’re highest in polyphenols. If you’re gluten intolerant, make sure you read the labels carefully before buying.
Snack foods containing grains are a little lower in antioxidants, but they still have plenty to help you stay healthy. Popcorn had the most antioxidants of all snack foods, so feel free to include it in your diet. Be sure to buy or make popcorn without oils, and spray it with a little olive oil if needed.
Remember that polyphenols are found also in walnuts and berries. So a bowl of whole grain cereal with a small handful of nuts and berries will go a long way toward helping you fight chronic diseases — and it tastes good, too. Just make sure it doesn’t contain a lot of added sugar.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand