Leafy greens of all kinds are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but that’s not all they have to offer. Antioxidants are the latest nutritional buzzword, and its one that you should be paying attention to.
What are Antioxidants?
Before we go any further, you should be clear on what antioxidants are in the first place. Without overwhelming you with advanced chemistry, the idea is simple Molecules called “free radicals” are everywhere in the environment, coming from broken down oxygen molecules. Things like pollution and excessive radiation (that includes sunlight) can cause them to form. They are reactive little things, and they break down our cells when inside our bodies. This can be the source of several kinds of cancer as well as other illnesses.
Antioxidants are compounds that will react with the radicals, helping to protect your health by neutralizing the threat. So the more you can add to your diet, the more defense you have against free radicals.
Antioxidants in Leafy Greens
Many compounds will act as antioxidants, and they are found in a range of foods. Leafy greens are known to be very high in many of these, though you can get some good antioxidants in other types of vegetables and several varieties of fruit.
Listing the specific compounds isn’t going to be much help for you, since they have unfamiliar names like quercetin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Broader terms like “flavonoid” might be easier to remember. Vitamins A, C and E are also potent antioxidants too, so you should also keep an eye out for them when making your healthy food choices.
What you really need to know, is which leafy greens are going to give you the most antioxidants. They would be:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
- Broccoli (not really leafy but still green)
- Beet and turnip greens
- Cabbage (red or green)
There is one other antioxidant we haven’t mentioned, and that’s chlorophyll. Since fresh wheatgrass juice is a particularly good source of chlorophyll, it’s worth talking about.
The idea of chlorophyll as a healthy nutrient is still new, and research is still ongoing. You find it any dark leafy greens. Results so far are showing that it’s an excellent antioxidant and that it also helps keeps the blood oxygenated with healthy red blood cells. Magnesium is one element found in the chlorophyll molecule, so that’s another mineral that comes with your leafy greens (we’ll be talking more completely about vitamins and minerals in greens coming up in a future article).
Juicing for Antioxidants
The trick in getting all the antioxidants you can out of your food is in the preparation. With leafy greens, you have tough cell walls to deal with so eating them raw isn’t the best choice. Cooking will break up those cells, and then you have nutrient loss from the heat. The best route is juicing your veggies to break up the cells without worrying about excess heat. It’s a nutritional win-win and will bring more antioxidants to the table with every ounce. Remember, you need a special juicer for leafy greens and wheatgrass in order to preserve nutrients and effectively juice!