Mini nutrition lesson: antioxidants

Antioxidants are being talked up more & more these days and for good reason. Antioxidants, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are important in our diet to help prevent cell damage & diseases. They prohibit or prevent the oxidation of molecules in our body including free radicals.

Free radicals can be formed by overexposure to alcohol, tobacco smoke, fried foods, air pollutants, and pesticides. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd number of electrons (aka unpaired). They’re formed when oxygen interacts with another molecule and are highly reactive. Once they get going, they form a chain reaction. They cause cell death which is dangerous when they interact with DNA or cell membranes.

This chain reaction can be prevented by consuming enough antioxidants in your diet. Antioxidants interact with free radicals and shut them down before they can damage any vital molecules. The main antioxidant micronutrients are Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A).

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found in nuts, seeds, oils, and whole grains.

Vitamin C is water-soluble and is present in citrus fruits/juices, broccoli, spinach, green peppers, kale, strawberries, and kiwi.

Beta-carotene (Vitamin A) is also fat-soluble and is found in egg yolk, dairy, spinach, squash, carrots, broccoli, peaches, and whole grains.

Studies are being conducted on the link between antioxidants and the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and aging. The studies haven’t been done long enough to be conclusive yet, but there is a great deal of evidence showing that eating fruits/veggies & living an overall healthy lifestyle is very beneficial in preventing these. The scientific evidence will come with time!

Endurance exercise (such as running, swimming, biking, etc.) increases the body’s oxygen utilization 10-20x above the resting state. Although exercise is very beneficial and should be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle, this oxygen increase also increases free radicals. This can increase damage to muscles and other tissues.

But good news! The human body is very adaptable and enhances the antioxidant defense system with regular physical exercise over time. So when you first start working out (or switch up your workouts) it can feel very taxing on the body. But once your body adjusts to the increased oxygen usage and increased free radicals, it learns how to defend against it. Increasing the antioxidants you get in your diet is still important, especially if you work out regularly, to help with muscle repair and growth.

So all in all, balance is important when it comes to antioxidants. Start a balanced fitness regimen (aka don’t just work out intensely for a couple days, take 5 days off, then repeat). You don’t need to work out every day or even 5x a week to be healthy. Exercise when exercise feels good and is a de-stressor as opposed to feeling like you have to. Try and eat 5 servings of fruits/veggies most days. Don’t worry about supplementing if you’re eating nutrient-dense foods in your diet often. These lifestyle factors will be beneficial in increasing antioxidant consumption as well as many other areas of your health!

Healthy Easy Pancake Recipe + random breakfast parfaits

I LOVE breakfast foods. I’ll take pancakes, donuts, french toast, pastries, bacon & eggs, etc. for any meal, anytime. Eating any of these in their normal form (gimme all the carbs & fat) is great, but I also love coming up with healthier versions of my favorite breakfast foods. The BEST healthy pancake recipe that I eat close to every morning is not only fluffy and delicious but also quick to make and only uses 5 ingredients. unnamed (3)

These babies are made with a banana, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp flour (I use whole wheat, but coconut or oat flour could be used to make gluten-free), cinnamon & vanilla extract to taste.

Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend on high until well combined (no chunks of banana left bc ew). Meanwhile, heat coconut oil in a pan on low-medium heat. Once the pan is heated, pour in your first pancake. I usually add chocolate chips or blueberries at this point, but add in whatever extras you want, or they’re great on their own!

I will make either the full recipe or half recipe for myself, depending on how hungry I am. The half recipe makes 2 pancakes and the full recipe makes 3-4, depending on how big you make them. I always add some sort of nut butter on top and sometimes honey or maple syrup if I’m feelin a kick of sweetness!

Like I said, I’ve been making these cakes almost every morning since I found the recipe bc that’s how incredible they are!

When I’m not feelin pancakey, I’ve been really into (2% or whole milk) Greek yogurt parfait bowls. Here’s a couple I’ve been making lately!

unnamed (1)

This one has 2% Fage plain Greek yogurt, sweetened with honey, mango, sliced banana, Smucker’s natural honey peanut butter, and protein granola.

unnamed (6)

This is the same combo, minus the mango, add strawbs and chocolate chips.

Both are so good and so filling bc of the added protein from the granola and nut butter, and the 2% (or full fat) yogurt, which keeps you full WAY longer than nonfat.