<p>Photography by Angus Fergusson</p>
Antioxidants don't just have anti-aging benefits, they can also help prevent vision loss, diabetes and even cancer.
You've probably heard about the anti-aging benefits of antioxidants, but we bet you didn't know that these nutrients can also help ward off disease. They prevent cell damage, which makes them pretty incredible at fighting cancer, diabetes and vision loss. And they're easy to find—just add these whole foods to your grocery list.
1. Sight saviours
Otherwise known as: Lutein and zeaxanthin
Found in: Yellow and green vegetables, such as peppers, corn, spinach and broccoli
How they work: Eating foods rich in these nutrients can help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. "They improve the function of the retina itself," says Desiree Nielsen, a Vancouver registered dietitian. "If you don't get lutein and zeaxanthin in your diet, it contributes to deterioration in eyesight as you get older."
2. Age defier
Otherwise known as: Lycopene
Found in: Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and papaya
How it works: Lycopene helps fight photodamage, which is the damage to skin or DNA caused by exposure to UV radiation. Over time, that can mean a younger-looking complexion, says Nielsen. It's also a potent anti-inflammatory, and research shows it may help prevent strokes and heart disease. For the most benefit, eat lycopene-rich foods cooked—tomato paste is one of the best sources because it's so concentrated.
3. Sugar blocker
Otherwise known as: Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
Found in: Green tea
How it works: A 2007 study found that green tea's all-star antioxidant EGCG can benefit insulin sensitivity, while a 2013 analysis of 17 studies showed that the tea can improve blood sugar. That's an important task, since insulin resistance can increase risk for Type 2 diabetes. Nielsen says green tea's EGCG may also lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, which is key to a healthy cardiovascular system. "They haven't determined an optimal dose yet, but consuming two or three cups of green tea a day is a good idea," she says.
4. Cancer combatants
Otherwise known as: Glucosinolates
Found in: Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, watercress and kale
How they work: These antioxidants break down into compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention. "When cells mutate, glucosinolates help kill them so they don't progress into cancer cells," explains Nielsen. Nosh on these veggies raw, as heat destroys the enzymes that break glucosinolates down during digestion.
Otherwise known as: Selenium
Found in: Brazil nuts, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds and Pacific oysters
How it works: Our bodies also make some antioxidants, and the mineral selenium helps recharge them so we can maximize their effects. Make sure to get selenium from food, not supplements, cautions Nielsen. "It's toxic in large amounts," she says.
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Beyond Thanksgiving dessert and carving jack-o’-lanterns, this autumn gourd has a host of health benefits. Here are five ways pumpkins can improve your diet, sleep and skin, plus five easy and nutritious pumpkin recipes.
1. Healthy eyes
Pumpkin is a rich source of beta-carotene—it’s what gives it that rich, vibrant colour. Packed with potent antioxidants, it helps protect your vision from degeneration. Bonus: You’ll also see stronger nails and healthier hair.
2. Glowing skin
Pumpkins are rich in a host of skin-healthy vitamins: the properties from antioxidant-rich vitamin A (retinol) act as a shield for your skin, protecting you from the damaging affects of free radicals; vitamin C helps promote collagen production and renew the skin for a glowing face; and vitamin E improves skin tone.
3. Energy boost
The daily recommended iron intake for women is higher than for men, and as women age or become pregnant, the necessary dose increases. Pumpkins are full of iron, an immunity-boosting mineral that can help ward of illness and fatigue and keep your energy high.
4. Better diet
High in fibre (7 grams per one cup of canned pumpkin) and low in calories (26 calories for 100g), pumpkins can help you stay full longer and keep your digestion on track. The Heart & Stroke association recommends 21 to 38 grams of fibre a day, however most people don’t quite reach half that amount.
5. Improved sleep and mood
Don’t toss the seeds. Raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) are rich in tryptophan (yes, the same snooze-inducing amino acid that kicks in post-turkey dinner) and can help you get more Zs. This compound also supports serotonin, which not only helps you sleep better, but boosts your mood, too.
Whether you use the whole pumpkin, the pulp or the seeds, here are five must-try recipes, ranging from savoury to sweet.
Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup
This silky soup is a mix of traditional sweet and sour Thai flavours and has only 159 calories per serving. It’s guaranteed to be your go-to winter warm-up soup.
Pumpkin Spice Muffins
A muffin is a great grab-and-go treat. Skip the maple cream cheese spread to keep the calorie count (250 calories) low.
Arugula and Pepita Pesto
Add this pesto to salad, soups or over meat. Keeps in the freezer for up to six months.
Almond Pepita Butter
This fragrant nut butter with a mix of almond and pepita is a super-satisfying topper.
Pumpkin Pie Granola
A mix of pepitas, pecans, flaxseeds, puffed rice cereal and a medley of aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, ginger and cloves gives this granola loads of flavour.