Who wasn’t inspired by the impressive efforts put forth by the Olympic athletes over the past few weeks? There were the amazing performances of the American athletes who pulled together for the highest medal draw at the Games. Canadian athletes broke Olympic history by having the highest number of gold medals in a single Olympics. Slovenian athlete Petra Majdic won a bronze medal even after she suffered a massive fall and the resulting broken ribs and punctured lung. And countless other athletes demonstrated near superhuman speed, endurance, and spirit. Other than the obvious drive they must have, what foods fuel these incredible feats? And, which foods can we eat more of to help us experience the best strength, endurance, and disease resistance?
Here are the top 10 picks that show the greatest antioxidant capacity, based on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scores by the USDA. Athletes are particularly prone to free radical damage, making the foods high on the ORAC chart excellent choices for them. But, these foods are not just good for athletes. We can all benefit from eating more of the top 10 foods on the ORAC chart. The number in brackets after each food item is the ORAC score it obtained…
Unsweetened dark chocolate (14479): Anyone who ever said healthy eating couldn’t taste great hadn’t considered the antioxidant capacity of dark chocolate. For anyone who is used to sweetened chocolate, it may be an adjustment to taste the bitterness of dark chocolate. Eating one square of baker’s chocolate daily offers tremendous antioxidant powers.
Elderberries (10655): Not only do raw elderberries rate high on the ORAC scale, they have proven antiviral ability, making them an especially good choice if you’re fighting off a cold or flu virus, or a more potent virus like HIV or Epstein Barr (linked to chronic fatigue syndrome). One half cup of raw elderberries was the amount used to determine its impressive ORAC score. It may be difficult to find elderberries in some communities. They are also available in dietary supplement form.
Apples (Red Delicious, 7781 and Granny Smith, 7094): Maybe there is truth to the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” One raw red delicious or Granny Smith apple daily packs a potent punch against free radicals.
Pomegranate Juice (100 percent pure pomegranate juice, 5923): For me, the taste of pure pomegranate juice rivals chocolate for the top-tasting antioxidant food on this list. As with all juices, be sure to dilute it 50:50 with water and sip slowly to prevent a sugar rush.
Prunes (dried plums 1/2 cup uncooked, 5700) and Prune Juice (one cup, 5212): Not just good for keeping the bowels moving, prunes are excellent superfoods with the ability to destroy age- and disease-related free radicals. Be sure to choose prunes that are free of sulphites. And, dilute juice 50:50 with water.
Red Wine (5693): While red wine is not the best choice for everyone (those suffering from brain disorders, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, among others should avoid alcohol), 5 ounces of red wine ranked high on the USDA ORAC table. Grapes and grape juice are an excellent alternative to red wine for those who want to avoid the alcohol or sulphites.
Artichokes (boiled 1/2 medium, 5650): Barely eaten in North America, these Mediterranean staples are a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet. I found 20 excellent recipes on Canadian Living’s site if you aren’t sure how to add artichokes to your diet.
Cranberries (1/2 cup raw 5271): It can be tricky to add raw, unsweetened cranberries to your diet, but these nutritional powerhouses are worth the effort. They are particularly good for anyone suffering from a urinary tract infection thanks to their proven antibacterial properties. I juice or blend them with some apple and add a bit of water to reap their benefits.
Pears (one medium, 5235): Not only are pears high on the ORAC scale, but like apples they contain an important type of fiber called pectin which has been proven to bind to harmful heavy metals in the body to escort them out through the bowels.
Pecans (1 ounce, 5086): Choose raw, unsalted pecans to reap the best antioxidant powers of pecans. Pecans are also high in the B-complex vitamins: thiamine, pantothenic acid, folate, and B-6, all of which are important for energy levels and balanced moods.
While few of us will have the opportunity to partake in the Olympics, we can all enjoy high performance foods that help us live life to the fullest.
Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook.