In case you haven’t heard us shouting from the rooftops, we’ve just launched two new gummy vitamins: SmartyPants Men’s Complete and Women’s Complete, which are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin A, C, E, CoQ10, lycopene, selenium, and zinc. But what are antioxidants? Why do we need them? And what are the best (and easiest) ways to get them into our diet?
We sought out the wisdom of one of the world’s leading experts in antioxidant research to answer these burning questions, and teamed up with Christina Valenziano, from The Blissful Balance, to create three dishes that will have you locked and loaded with antioxidants all day long.
FREE RADICALS? ANTIOXIDANTS? WHAT?
We hear these words a lot. Free radicals = bad. Antioxidants = good. What are they, really? Free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron. (Not too scary…) To fill the gap, free radicals steal electrons from neighboring molecules, resulting in cell damage and death, otherwise known as “oxidation,” or “oxidative damage.” (Scary.) Antioxidants are molecules that are stable enough to donate an extra electron to these free radical thieves, neutralizing them before they can cause too much damage.
Free radicals are generated from a multitude of environmental and lifestyle factors, including stress, pollutants, cigarette smoke, sun overexposure, and even exercise! “We need to make sure we have adequate antioxidant defenses to combat all the excess free radicals,” says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., Director of the antioxidants lab at Tufts University, and one of our SmartyPants Scientific Advisory Board members.
But all antioxidants are not the same. Each one has a specific, protective function, which is why it’s important to eat a variety of antioxidant-packed foods.
Lucky for you, we’ve created a sample menu that does just that. Now let’s eat!
BREAKFAST: ORANGE MANGO SMOOTHIE BOWL
Oranges might be most famous for their vitamin C content – a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals, nourishes the adrenal glands, helps the body make collagen, heal wounds, and repair and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Combined with sweet banana, silky almond milk, and juicy mango – which also packs a hefty dose of vitamin C – you’ll be starting your day with countless nutrients, all in one bowl.
SmartyTip: Vitamin C is easily damaged by heat, so it’s best to eat foods containing vitamin C, raw or only very lightly cooked.
- 1 cup frozen mango
- ½ orange
- ½ cup frozen pineapple
- ½ cup almond milk
- ½ banana
- 1 tsp ground chia seeds
- Orange slices
- Chia seeds
- Banana slices
- Add smoothie ingredients to a blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- If desired texture is not achieved, add more frozen fruit to increase thickness, or almond milk to thin.
- Enjoy with toppings of choice!
LUNCH: SOUTHWEST SWEET POTATO RICE BOWLS
Sweet potatoes contain antioxidant vitamin A and carotenoids, which give them their orange color. The flavors of the sweet corn, caramelized onions and peppers, salty black beans, and creamy guacamole make this bowl a perfect marriage of sweet and salty and amazing.
SmartyTip: The antioxidant beta-carotene, which is found in orange and yellow foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash, is actually enhanced by moderate heat, so your best bet is to roast or cook these veggies low and slow.
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 cup canned black beans
- 1 bell pepper, julienned
- ½ sweet onion, julienned
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup white wine
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 avocado
- 1 tsp salsa
- 1 tsp lime juice
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- Using a spiralizer, spiralize sweet potatoes into noodles.
- Using a food processor, pulse the spiralized sweet potatoes into ‘rice’. Do so in batches, making sure not to process too much, but only until little pieces of rice are formed.
- Add the sweet potato rice to a large sauté pan and set heat to medium. Drizzle with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for about 8-10 minutes.
- In another large sauté pan, heat garlic with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic until golden.
- Add onions, peppers, white wine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until peppers are soft and onions are translucent.
- To make guacamole, spoon out the avocado meat from the skin and place in a small bowl. Use a fork to mash together.
- Add in 1 tsp of salsa, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Stir until well-combined.
- Fill bowls with sweet potato rice, black beans, corn, peppers, onions, topped with guacamole and cilantro.
DINNER: LENTIL BOLOGNESE WITH SQUASH NOODLES
Zucchini and yellow squash stand in for the classic spaghetti and make for a rich source of the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Lycopene, the antioxidant responsible for giving tomatoes, watermelons, and our SmartyPants Men’s Complete their vivid red color, has been shown to help support healthy arterial function, and male fertility and prostate function. And with 18 grams of protein in one cup of lentils, nobody will be asking, “where’s the beef!?”
SmartyTip: Research shows that cooking tomatoes boosts their lycopene content, so feel free to turn up the heat when making your marinara.
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ sweet onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 12 oz dried brown lentils
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ cups water
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- Salt, to taste
- 2 zucchini squash, spiralized into noodles
- 3 yellow squash, spiralized into noodles
- In a large pot over medium heat, add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, onion, carrots, celery and 2 cloves minced garlic. Sauté for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
- Add in tomato paste and mix well.
- When paste begins to dry out, add in the tomatoes, water, and lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce back to medium. Add in salt, basil, and wine. Stir and cover. Let simmer for about 45 minutes. If you notice the liquid has reduced a bit, add water until it reaches your desired texture.
- When lentils are soft, begin to prepare squash noodles.
- Add 2 cloves minced garlic and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to a large sauté pan. When garlic is golden, add in squash noodles. Cook for about five minutes. Avoid allowing the squash to cook for too long as it becomes soft and soggy.
- Serve Bolognese over squash noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan or shredded mozzarella.
Christina Valenziano is a food blogger, photographer, and recipe developer out of Tampa, Florida. She blogs about all things food and lifestyle at her little space on the web, The Blissful Balance. A simultaneous fitness fanatic and cookie monster, Christina believes in enjoying the little things with healthy moderation.
Know anyone that could use some antioxidant inspo? Share this with them!
What are your favorite ways to eat antioxidants? Any great cooking tips? We love to hear in the comments below!
Posted on April 21, 2016