Antioxidants are a popular topic this summer for consumers and my clients. For Summer Antioxidants I’m sharing with you the related health benefits of purplish/black (blueberries, plums and Saskatoon berries) and red fruits (cherries, tomatoes and raspberries). Who doesn’t love eating fresh fruit in the summer? Two of my favourite summertime foods are blueberries and vine ripened tomatoes. They are featured in this Grow with Nutrition post and they will be in season soon in my local community!
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants include a number of enzymes, vitamins and other components such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids (beta carotene, lycopene and lutein) and polyphenols (catechins and flavonoids). They act as “free radical scavengers” and combat oxidative stress by preventing and repairing damage done by free radicals.
When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce “free radicals” (by-products) which can cause damage. Excess oxidative damage is a contributor to health problems including inflammation, heart disease, macular degeneration, cognitive diseases, diabetes and cancer. We can get antioxidants from eating a variety of foods including grains, vegetables and fruits. My recent Barley Balance Blog features the antioxidant-rich ancient grain. Now, let’s take a look at my fave summertime purplish/black and red fruits.
Purplish/Black and Red Fruits – Antioxidant Health Benefits
Antioxidant-rich Blueberries reduce Inflammation
Research has shown daily blueberry consumption provides protection from oxidative stress. One study concluded by adding 75 grams of blueberries to a low-fat breakfast, within 3 hours of the meal, it significantly increased antioxidant capacity for healthy, young adults (18 to 27 years of age) (5). Another study, examined the ability of blueberries to counter post-exercise inflammation, oxidative stress and immune changes. Individuals in the study ate 250 grams of blueberries every day for 6 weeks, and 375 grams of blueberries one hour prior to strenuous exercise (2.5 hours of running). The consumption of blueberries prior to exercise showed a significant reduction in oxidative stress and an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines (promoters of immune health) (6).
Antioxidant-rich Tomatoes may protect against Cancer
The combination of phytochemicals found in tomatoes provides a wide range of health benefits when consumed daily over several months. This includes the inhibition of some types of cancer cells (i.e., breast, stomach, colon, liver), protection against inflammatory diseases, and reducing the progression of atherosclerosis (7). For men, lycopene (the antioxidant that give tomatoes their red colour) may protect against prostate cancer by reducing both lipid oxidation and cancer cell growth (8).
Check out funny lady Mairlyn Smith’s recipe for Blueberry and Tomato Summer Salad. Mairlyn recommends that early to mid August is the best time seasonally to make this one in Canada! Now for recipe #2! I came across this recipe a few days ago and thought – wow blueberries (I’ve had pears) are a unique topping for pizza. Here it is – Savory Blueberry Pizza from blueberrycouncil.org. Let me known if you make it!
- Skibsted LH. Carotenoids in antioxidant networks: Colorants or radical scavengers. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60:2409-2417.
- Moze Bornsek S, Ziberna L, Polak T, Vanzo A, Poklar Ulrih N, Abram V, et al. Bilberry and blueberry anthocyanins act as powerful intracellular antioxidants in mammalian cells. Food Chem. 2012;134:1878-1884.
- Park MH, Min DS. Quercetin-induced down regulation of phospholipase D1 inhibits proliferation and invasion in U87 glioma cells. Biochem Biophys Res Cummun. 2011;412:710-715.
- Alleva R, Di Donato F, Strafella E, Staffolani S, Nocchi L, Borghi B, et al. Effect of ascorbic acid-rich diet on in vivo-induced oxidative stress. Br J Nutr. 2012;107:1645-1654.
- Blacker BC, Snyder SM, Egget DL, Parker TL. Consumption of blueberries with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat breakfast decreases postprandial serum markers of oxidation. Br J Nutr. 2013:109:1670-1677.
- McAnulty LS, Nieman DC, Dumke CL, Shooter LA, Henson DA, Utter AC, et al. Effect of blueberry ingestion on natural killer cell counts, oxidative stress and inflammation prior to and after 2.5 h of running. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011;36:976-984.
- Friedman M. Anticarcinogenic, cardioprotective, and other health benefits of pure tomato compounds lycopene, α-tomatine, and tomatidine in pure form and in fresh and processed tomatoes. J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61:9534-9550.
- Lee LK, Foo KY. An appraisal of the therapeutic value of lycopene for the chemoprevention of cancer: A nutrigenomic approach. Food Res Int. 2013;54:1217-1228.