With nearly 300 vendors, the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market offers a plethora of fresh products and produce. These locally grown goodies aren't this week's Hidden Gem, but rather the antioxidant power they contain! Besides their health benefits and delicious taste, antioxidant rich foods strengthen your ability to fight infection and disease, and protect your cells against the effects of free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause. Antioxidants are abundant in fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and in some meats, poultry, and fish.
Benefits & Food Sources of Common Antioxidants:
- Beta-carotene: Found in many foods that are orange in color, including sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, pumpkin, and mangoes. Some green, leafy vegetables, including collard greens, spinach, and kale, are also rich in beta-carotene.
- Lutein: Best known for its association with healthy eyes, lutein is abundant in green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, and kale.
- Lycopene: A potent antioxidant associated with reduced incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration. Found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, and other foods.
- Selenium: A mineral component of antioxidant enzymes which the body needs for normal growth and health, and is associated with reduced risk of cancer. Selenium is found in seafood, liver, lean red meat, Brazil nuts, and grains grown in soil that is rich in selenium.
- Vitamin A: Needed for night vision, healthy eyes, and for growth of skin, bones, and male and female reproductive organs. In pregnant women, vitamin A is necessary for the growth of a healthy fetus. Foods rich in vitamin A include liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks, and mozzarella cheese.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin, needed by the body to form collagen in bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels, and which aids in the absorption of iron. Dietary sources of vitamin C include fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits such as oranges.
- Vitamin E: Has been proposed for the prevention or treatment of numerous health conditions including cancer, acne, aging, hair loss, bee stings, liver spots on the hands, diaper rash, stomach ulcer, heart attacks, labor pains, certain blood diseases, fertility... and the list goes on and on! Foods that contain vitamin E include eggs, fortified cereals, fruit, green leafy vegetables, meat, nuts, nut oils, poultry, vegetable oils, argan oil, olive oil, wheat germ oil, and whole grains.
UnityPoint Health - Des Moines shares weekly recipes and activities that incorporate fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables and other foods that you can pick-up at The Market. When you incorporate these foods into your daily routine as ingredients or a heart healthy super-snack, you will start feeling the benefits immediately. A healthy diet promotes healthy weight and boosts your mood and self-esteem!