Holiday health with antioxidant-rich foods

During the holidays, it’s simple to get swept up in the joy and excess of delectable meals. Nonetheless, it’s critical that put your health first and choose wholesome foods. Including foods high in antioxidants in your holiday feasts is one way to achieve this.

Antioxidants are substances that lessen oxidative stress on the body brought on by dangerous molecules called free radicals.

“Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds,” said Shelby Yaceczko, RD, an advanced-practice dietitian at the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases. “These all are anti-inflammatory foods.”

Antioxidants that are more widely used include beta-carotene, manganese, copper, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Finding holiday foods high in antioxidants

Which foods high in antioxidants would go well with traditional holiday fare? Here are some recommendations:

Bright cranberries: Cranberries are a must-have for any holiday table. These tiny, colorful berries are high in vitamin C and anthocyanins, two types of antioxidants. For a healthy and tart taste boost, add dried cranberries to salads or stuffing. You can also serve homemade cranberry sauce as a side dish.

Fabulous greens: Add leafy greens high in nutrients, such as kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts, to your holiday meal. Iron, calcium, and other minerals, along with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and K, abound in these greens. Impress your guests with healthy and tasty side dishes like sautéed kale or roasted Brussels sprouts.

Nut-love: Pecans, walnuts, and almonds are not only a delicious garnish for dishes and desserts during the holidays, but they are also a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants. For a filling snack, sprinkle them over salads, add them to stuffing recipes, or roast them with a little honey and cinnamon.

Berries aplenty: Antioxidants abound in strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Flavonoids and vitamin C, which are abundant in these vibrant treats, strengthen the immune system and advance general wellbeing. Berries can be used as a garnish for desserts, added to fruit salads, or made into a cool compote to go with main courses.

Beautiful winter squash: Winter squash comes in a variety of forms, such as butternut and acorn squash, and is abundant in the holiday season. It is rich in antioxidants and important nutrients. Their vivid orange flesh is an indication of their high beta-carotene content, which the body uses to produce vitamin A. Add them to creamy soups, roast them as a side dish, or bake them into casseroles for a wholesome and cozy touch to your holiday spread.

Dark Chocolate Treats: This holiday season, indulge your sweet tooth with a guilt-free treat. High-cocoa content dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants, especially flavonoids. For optimal health benefits, choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids and indulge in a small piece or two to satiate your cravings.

You may not have realized that holiday spices are a good source of antioxidants.

According to Yaceczko, some seasonings have a high antioxidant content in addition to adding flavor to food.

“Some other compounds that are really rich in antioxidants are going to be your herbs and spices. Think of things like Italian seasonings, black pepper, cinnamon or nutmeg. A lot of these really nice holiday spices can add a healthy spark to your cooking or to your dishes,” Yaceczko said.

Explore your culinary creativity with these festive ingredients, and bask in the happiness that comes with a nutritious and colorful holiday season.