Saturday, January 9, 2010

Best Fruits and Vegetables

I don’t know about you, but I like to do my grocery shopping on Saturdays – today. As we all know, fruits and vegetables are essential if you’re trying to lose weight or simply trying to eat healthy. Since I’m going grocery shopping today, I figured that maybe I should get a better idea as of to what kinds of fruits and vegetables I should be buying. I mean, all fruits and vegetables are extremely healthy by definition but there must be some that are better than others, right?

As I was gathering information on the subject, I came across the word antioxidants. These are the compounds that give fruits and vegetables their colour. Also, these compounds are the ones that provide us with most of the health benefits associated with a high intake of fruits and vegetables. Thus, experts in the field suggest that we should eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in colour. But, wait a minute. Are certain colours better than others? To answer this question, take a look at the list below. This is a list of some of the most common antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables:

Glucosinolates and chlorophyll: They can be found in brussels sprouts, collards, kale, watercress, turnip, cabbage, broccoli, rapini, mustard greens and cauliflower. All these foods are considered super foods because of their high content in either or both of these antioxidants.

Anthocyanins: This antioxidant is responsible for the red and blue colour in berries, eggplant and red cabbage. They too are considered extreme good for your health. I guess we all have heard how good berries are for you. Their high content in anthocyanins is the reason why they are so good for you.

Carotenoids: These give their yellow, orange or red colour to fruits and vegetables. A good example of a food containing large amounts of carotenoids is carrots, of course. Tomatoes are also a good example.
Carotenoids are very beneficial to our health. If you don’t like carrots or tomatoes,however, there’s still hope. There is this sub-category of carotenoids called lutein. Lutein is a very potent antioxidant that can be found in dark green fruits and vegetables such as raw kale, cooked spinach, collards, turnip greens, green peas, broccoli and romaine lettuce.

Allicin: I believe this antioxidant exists in nature to be the exception to the rule as it is found in foods that lack colour such as garlic and onions.

As you can see, dark green vegetables such as broccoli usually have more than one kind of antioxidant. This is why they are often called super foods – they are super good for you.

Another recommendation concerning fruits and vegetables is to eat the skin. I know not everyone is thrilled to eat the skin, especially when it comes to apples and peaches, but most of the fibre is found in the skin. This is the reason why the skin is usually a bit rougher that the “meat” inside. Also, most of the vitamins and minerals are found just under the skin. Thus, if you take the skin off, you will lose a somewhat significant amount of vitamins and minerals.

Finally, I wanted to post this list of the fruits and vegetables that have the highest amounts of antioxidants. Just a little something to make your fruit and vegetable shopping a bit easier.

Fruits                                                                                Vegetables
1. Berries (Blueberries, cranberries, etc.)                   1. Red beans
2. Apples (red delicious)                                            2. Artichoke hearts
3. Cherries                                                                3. Russet potatoe
4. Plums                                                                    4. Red cabbage
5. Avocados                                                               5. Asparagus

Source: J. Agric. Food Chem. (2004), 52, 4026-4037

P.S. I got some of this information from the book "Foods that Fight Cancer" since antioxidants are widely believe to, well, fight cancer. If you have access to the book, check it out for more detailed information.

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