Antioxidants: your best asset against ageing
A few days ago I was watching TV with Belle when a black and white clip came on.
“Mummy,” she said, “is this what TV was like when you were a kid? You had cars though, right?”
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry … I feel young most of the time, but I felt as if I aged 100 years in a nanosecond during that conversation.
Maybe she noticed the expression on my face, because she countered it with: “My friend Kallie thinks you look 22. I think you look 32! How old are you again?”
I love the random ramblings of an eight-year-old's mind; I also love the honesty; most of the time. It's funny, I spend a lot of time at work talking about disease prevention.
And with an estimated 70 per cent of chronic disease in Bermuda thought to be preventable, that seems like a good idea.
Yes, people want to live longer, but they also want to lead active, full lives with mental clarity and good health, which are big motivators. But what really makes people sit up and listen is when we discuss anti-ageing.
We're kind of fickle creatures, but I get it. I would like to keep the wrinkles at bay too.
I accidentally had my phone on selfie mode when I was taking pictures at the beach the other day.
I couldn't really see what I was doing because the light was so bright, but I assumed I had beautiful pictures of the ocean. Instead, I had a dozen awkward selfies. Gosh that was a wake-up call! But I have some really good news.
The antioxidants that you need to help keep ageing at bay are also the antioxidants you need to keep disease at bay too.
The best way to understand what an antioxidant does is to picture what happens when oxygen hits the flesh of an apple.
The oxygen is chemically reactive and triggers a process called “oxidation”, resulting in ageing and degeneration (browning) on the surface.
But, if you cover the flesh of the apple in lemon juice, the flesh will remain white (undamaged) for much longer.
The lemon juice is rich in antioxidants which protect the apple from oxidation. In many ways, we age much like an apple does. And whilst there are several things that accelerate oxidation (eg smoking, stress, exposure to pollution and excessive sunlight), if we consume lots of antioxidants, we can inhibit oxidation through our consumption in the same way that the lemon juice protects the apple. Are you with me?
The upshot is that eating antioxidants is good for you. And they're found in fruit and vegetables, and also nuts/seeds (the healthy kind, not your average tin of Planters), herbs and spices and dark chocolate too (but easy does it)!
Fruit is great, but because it's rich in natural sugars, it's a good idea to stick to about two servings a day. Instead, massively bump up your antioxidant intake by switching grain-based carbs (eg rice) for vegetable-based carbs (eg butternut squash).
Instead of crackers and hummus, have raw carrots (or peppers) and hummus. It's a simple but incredibly effective switch when it comes to anti-ageing and disease prevention.
To help you along, I've given you two great summer, side recipes below! The butternut squash is a healthy summer carb that can take the place of potatoes, rice, pasta, etc. The kale salad is the only way you'll get me eating kale. The dressing is delicious and it softens the leaves too, so they don't attack your face as you try and eat them. Enjoy!
Roasted Honey Balsamic Butternut Squash
Ingredients: (per person)
1 large handful spinach leaves
1 cup peeled, chopped butternut squash (1-inch cubes)
½ cup mixed chopped peppers (red, orange, yellow)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1, Preheat the oven to 360F
2, Stir together the garlic, honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil
3, Toss the squash and peppers in the dressing
4, Place in a roasting pan and cook for 35 minutes, or until the cubes of squash are tender. Turn the peppers/squash once, halfway through.
5, Once cooked, toss together with the spinach leaves, allowing the leaves to wilt a little. Season to taste and serve immediately.
Kickin' Kale Salad (serves 2)
6-8 stems kale
1 lemon, juiced
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tsp honey, ideally local
2 tsp tahini
Salt/pepper to taste
1 tsp sesame seeds
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1, Prepare the kale by rinsing well and patting dry. Remove the tough middle stem and then slice the leaves into thin ribbons.
You can do this roughly, it doesn't take long. You can alternatively process into small pieces in a food processor. Set to one side.
2, In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, tahini and salt/pepper. Pour this over the kale, and with clean hands, literally massage it into the kale leaves. Rub it in really well till all the leaves are coated.
3, Add in the sesame seeds and pine nuts and toss into the salad. Keep a few aside to sprinkle on top just before serving. You can serve it straight away but you can also leave it marinating in the fridge. Unlike regular salads, kale gets better and softer the longer the dressing soaks into the leaves.
• Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, on Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda