Important Antioxidants for Your Child’s Health
Antioxidant is a term used alot in the media and on health sites. But what exactly is it – and why is it important for your children?
An antioxidant refers to any chemical compound which prevents oxidation of the cells, a damage process which can accelerate aging and lead to a variety of chronic diseases, including cancer. Getting a lot of antioxidants in the diet is a great way to stay healthy and prevent illness.
Below are some of the most common antioxidants – along with tips as to how to get them in your child’s diet.
Beta-carotene is a compound known as a carotenoid, an orange-red pigment found in a number of fruits and vegetables. It is converted to this vitamin A in the body, strengthening the immune system and improving both vision and skin health.
To get more beta-carotene in your children’s diet:
- Make up a tropical fruit salad with mangoes and papayas for your child’s lunch
- Add grated or sliced carrots to dishes like stir-fries, soups and stews
- Add pumpkin and other orange roots to your diet
This compound is a flavonoid which, like beta-carotene, is a natural pigment found in a variety of foods. It’s valued for its ability to promote heart health, help relieve respiratory issues like hay fever and asthma, and even moderate the effects of diabetes. It’s also used to enhance athletic performance.
To get more quercetin in the diet:
- Add minced garlic to pasta dishes, soups and stews or casseroles
- Chop and sauté onions then add them to your child’s scrambled eggs or omelet in the morning
- Sprinkle finely chopped leeks on soups or pasta dishes
Resveratrol is a polyphenol with strong antioxidant properties. It’s currently being studied for its ability to help promote brain and heart health as well as for its role in preventing certain forms of cancer. It is one of the most-researched antioxidants.
To get more resveratrol in your child’s diet:
- Add chopped, unpeeled red apples to your child’s oatmeal or serve apple slices and peanut butter up for an after-school snack
- Consider serving small amounts of all-natural, no sugar added red grape juice
- Use dark chocolate chips or cacao in a variety of healthy desserts
Allicin is the compound that gives garlic its distinctive flavor. It’s popularly used to help treat or prevent colds due to its antimicrobial properties. It also promotes heart health by regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Adding more allicin to the diet is easy:
- Make up a steaming bowl of French onion soup
- Add onions and garlic to casseroles, stews, and stir-fries
- Bake up a homemade, healthy garlic bread with whole-grain flour
Anthocyanin is yet another food pigment which is also a strong antioxidant. It gives a blue or purple tone to many fruits and vegetables and can strengthen immunity, support cardiovascular health and help prevent colds.
To get more anthocyanins in your diet:
- Mix fresh blueberries into a whole wheat pancakes
- Make a mixed berry smoothie with blackberries, cherries and blueberries
- Garnish your child’s breakfast omelet or other dish with a small bunch of red grapes
Lutein, like beta-carotene, is also a carotenoid, a food pigment found not only in many fruits and vegetables but also in egg yolks and animals fats (this is what gives chicken fat its faintly yellowish color!). It’s excellent for eye health and is thought to prevent common visual problems like macular degeneration, photophobia, and cataracts.
To increase lutein in the diet:
- Make whole-egg dishes like quiche or omelets for your child’s breakfast
- Serve up a whole roast chicken for dinner
- Add yellow bell peppers to omelets or scrambled eggs, stir-fries, or Mexican-style dishes like fajitas
Lycopene lends its color to tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables, and is valued for its ability to moderate the effects of heart disease and respiratory conditions like asthma.
Increase lycopene in the diet by:
- Adding grilled tomatoes to an egg dish for breakfast.
- Sautéing red peppers in Southwest-style omelets or casseroles
- Slicing up grapefruit and serving it as a side for breakfast
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which is good for immunity and visual health. It also promotes cell growth and wound healing.
To get more vitamin A:
- Add shredded carrots to salads or wraps
- Serve up salads based on leafy green vegetables like spinach
- Chop up dried apricots and peaches and add them to oatmeal
Vitamin C is water-soluble and helps with wound healing as well. It also is used in flu and cold treatment/prevention due to its ability to strengthen the immune system. It can also help moderate different skin conditions like acne.
To increase Vitamin C in the diet:
- Make up a fruit salad with strawberries, mango, and orange sections.
- Mix a papaya smoothie
- Serve sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes with dinner
Vitamin E is another fat-soluble vitamin extremely important for the health of the eyes and skin, as well as the brain.
To increase your intake of vitamin E:
- Use olive oil for sautés and stir-fries
- Sprinkle almonds or hazelnuts onto oatmeal
- Offer sunflower seeds as a snack
What are some of your kid's favorite antioxidant-rich foods?