Friday, December 26, 2008

Antioxidants in the Kitchen

In today’s world, antioxidants protect our body against damage done by free radicals, chemicals, toxins and pollution. Unlike 30 years ago, today medical scientists, doctors, nutritionists will you that:

Heart attacks, angina, heart failure, stroke, ageing, brain damage, kidney, radiation sickness, Rheumatoid arthritis, male infertility, Retinopathy of prematurity, malnutrition, common cold and cancer have a common cause.

Antioxidants are phyto-chemicals derived from natural colors present in our food. The carotenoids, lycopene, and vitamin C found in them prevent, retard and reverse cancer, eye disorders, strokes, etc. they are little soldiers that protect our body and fortunately, we do not need to pop pills to derive their benefits.

Let us look in our Indian kitchens – they are a virtual antioxidant pillbox in themselves. A meal in a regular Indian household is a magic canon loaded to combat diseases. The variety of fruits, vegetables herbs, spices, condiments, grains, pulses and cold pressed oils are the bullets. The Indian diet is a riot of natural colors – so load on the guavas, papayas, oranges, bananas, and amlas – the list is endless.

And much as we might have hated it then, dadima was actually right. She hit the nail on the head by making us eat karela, palak or methi. When she lovingly sprinkled tons of kothmir on our food, little did we know that these were rich in chlorophyll – a major cancer fighter.

Even veggies like cabbage, cauliflower, radish and turnips, commonly eaten by most Indian households are great crucifiers. These vegetables are all on the cancer and heart disease prevention map, providing amazing protection to our immune system. Meanwhile, soups, rasams, purees and low fat gravies of tomato cut your risk of prostate cancer by half.
Though onions and garlic make you cry, they repel and lower cholesterol, prevent arthritis, constipation, common colds, and flu and cancer risks. ‘Chapata’ potato and sweet potato chaat (with their skin) are a good source of phyto-chemicals and are antidepressants.

Among the species, turmeric is a virtual gold mine. Not only does it flight heart diseases, lowers triglycerides and is an anti-Alzheimer, turmeric also reduces the risk of cancer and is anti-inflammatory. And while the red color in red chillis is excellent for arthritis, cumin stops the process of cancer by preventing DNA to blind with cancer cells. Flavaniods in ajwain and mint not only prevent flatulence, colds and digestive disorders, they cause cancer cells to mutate. In addition, flax seeds contain 100 times more ligans, which help in lowering cholesterol.

Cold pressed oils like olive, groundnut, sesame, mustard and sunflower contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which cut down the risk of elevated lipids and cholesterol.

Grains including bajra, jowar, barley and brown rice are great sources of soluble fiber, and help to lower cholesterol. Pulses like rajma and chana help in battling heart diseases, cancer and osteoporosis.

It’s important to remember that chemicals, preservatives and addictives are all a cause of diseases. They are high in free radicals so let’s be smart and in all our foods let’s go organic. The best part is that we do not need to make any drastic changes to our food habits – these food items have been handed down to us through generations. It depends on us to understand and appreciate it. The Indian meal can be one of the healthiest and heartiest. So throw out those pills and dig deeper in your kitchen – the remedies are in front of you!

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