Auntie Oxidant is a kid’s best friend. Who wouldn’t want to have a powerful protector like her on their side? She’s a real fighter who guards our cells and disarms invaders that cause disease… good to have around.
Auntie O lounges about in fruits and veggies. You probably know some of her family already. Meet:
- Vitamin A – hiding in ORANGE fruits and veggies, like carrots and sweet potatoes
- Lycopene – swimming in cooked tomato dishes, like catchup
- Vitamin E – holding hands with vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds
- Anthocyanin – showing off in RED or BLUE foods, like beets and red carrots
Known in the science world as antioxidants, these nutrients protect cells from free radicals.
”The amount of antioxidants in your body is directly proportional to how long you will live.”
- Dr. Richard Cutler, former Director of the National Institute of Aging, Washington
Free radicals are trouble-makers – formed when oxygen molecules are ripped apart.
Oxygen comes into our bodies in the air we breath. It arrives in pairs of oxygen atoms, with each pair bound tightly into a molecule. We can’t do without the oxygen twins for more than a few seconds. They are essential to life.
But the twins have some powerful enemies. Smoking, alcohol, air pollution, infection, sunlight, radiation… all these things tear at the oxygen molecules, breaking the twins apart.
The separated oxygen atoms are freed at a price – they each lose one electron. The deprived oxygen atoms go on a rampage… stealing electrons from other molecules and damaging cells. Cancer, stroke, sunburn and even aging itself are triggered this way.
Antioxidants ride to the rescue. They use their own electrons to rope those crazy radicals in and tie them up before they can do harm. Without Auntie O, we sort of rust away, from the inside out… or in the case of sunburn, from the outside in!
Scientists agree that eating lots of fruits and vegetables lowers your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. A diet rich in veggies and fruit keeps you healthy, through and through.
If your kids won’t eat their veggies in chunks, try them on a delicious pureed soup. Why not start with Auntie O’s favorite, adapted from Cooking up a storm, dish by dish.
Auntie O’s Soup of the Day
CREAM OF ORANGE AND RED VEGGIES
Makes 14 cups
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 red (or orange) carrots,* cut into cubes (about 1 pound or 450 grams)
1 butternut squash, peeled and de-seeded, and cut into cubes (about 1 1/2 pounds or 680 grams)
1 red onion, cut and diced (about 10 ounces or 300 grams)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes, diced (about 1 pound or 450 grams)
1 litre chicken stock
a little salt and paprika to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or to taste, depending on acid in tomatoes
pumpkin seeds and basil to garnish
- Wash, peel, chop and measure the veggies. Tip: Slice the squash into one-inch rounds, then slice off the hard skin and take out the seeds. Now cut it into cubes.
- In a soup pot on medium heat, stir fry the carrots for 10-15 minutes in the oil. My red carrots turned the soup a beautiful burgundy!
- Add the butternut squash, together with the onions and the garlic, and stir fry for 10 minutes longer
- Add the tomatoes, and cook 2 minutes more
- Add the chicken stock – bring to a boil
- Cover and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the veggies are squishy
- Switch off the stove – let the mixture cool for 5-10 minutes
- Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, or use a hand blender right in the pot on the stove top (the easiest)
- Serve warm, topped with basil and pumpkin seeds, if you like
- The free radical theory of aging matures. Physiol Rev. 1998 Apr;78(2):547-81.
- Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). J Am Acad Dermatol. 1998 Jan;38(1):45-8.
- Plasma and lung macrophage responsiveness to carotenoid supplementation and ozone exposure in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;58(12):1571-9.
* Red carrots have been grown in Turkey for centuries. Their color remains stable and adds a lovely burgundy glow to your soup. You can find them at farmers markets or veggies stores, sold as heritage carrots. They are even healthier than orange carrots because of the special antioxidant they contain, anthocyanin. If you can’t find any red carrots, orange ones work too.