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Go Blue and Nearly Double Your Antioxidant Intake

by Terri Hobbs

Why should you care? Your cells are constantly under attack by free radicals. Free radicals are atoms, like oxygen, or molecules with an oxygen atom, that have lost one or more electrons. This lack of electrons makes the atoms or molecules highly reactive. The free radicals will bind to other atoms or molecules in your cells -- like your DNA -- and will damage them.

Free radicals can also alter LDL cholesterol so that it sticks to the linings of your arteries. They can damage the collagen in your skin and make it wrinkle.

What can you do? You can help neutralize free radicals by giving them other target atoms or molecules to bind to instead of your DNA and other bodily components. The other targets you want to introduce are antioxidants.

Well-known antioxidants are the vitamins C and E, but you can get many other antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. One of the most important, the one that could nearly double your antioxidant intake -- is the blueberry. Tests performed at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University compared forty common fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant power. This group included broccoli, kale, spinach, and strawberries -- each containing high quantities of antioxidants -- but the diminutive blueberry beat them all.

The potent antioxidant power of the blueberry comes from its blueness. The compounds that make the blueberry skin blue are called anthocyanins (or anthocyanosides). The anthocyanins make an enticing target for free radicals; the presence of the anthocyanins in your system will help reduce the free radicals that are available to damage your cells.

How much do you have to eat? Not much. The study found that adding 1/2 cup of blueberries -- fresh or frozen -- to your daily diet was enough to nearly double your antioxidant intake, even for those who already ate some fruits or vegetables every day. Note that you should add the 1/2 cup of blueberries to your diet, not replace other fruits and vegetables that you are already eating.

You can add blueberries to your diet by adding them to baked goods, cereal, or eating them fresh. Another quick method is to make a blueberry shake. You can mix 8 ounces of milk, 1/2 cup of blueberries, and a dash of vanilla in the blender (plus a spoonful of sugar if you like sweet drinks), whiz the mixture around, drink and enjoy. Using frozen blueberries will produce a nice cool drink on a hot day. And you can replace regular milk plus the vanilla with vanilla-flavored soy milk if you wish.

One caution. If you have a history of kidney stones, please ask your doctor whether you should add blueberries to your diet. Otherwise, you should be able to snack on these tasty little blue treats and increase your antioxidant intake with ease.


About the author:

Terri Hobbs is the webmaster for Crazy for Life, a site for those with a zest for living and a desire to improve all areas of their life -- spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical. Check out the spiritual reading list, astrology column, fitness tools, personals, games, and extensive directory of links -- plus much more.

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