Antioxidants are abundant in the foods we eat.
Incredibly rich sources are found in fruits and vegetables, however antioxidants are also in all foods including meat, seafood, fats such as extra virgin olive oil, dairy, chocolate and beverages such as tea, coffee and of course wine (white and red!).
Below is a brief summary of how to ensure you keep their goodness during the cooking process.
Foods have an amazing ability to protect themselves during the cooking process.
Garlic, is one of those wonderful foods. It is a heart healthy food with powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic contains allicin and when crushed this releases a heat sensitive enzyme called alliinase.
This enzyme works to protect the antioxidant during the cooking process, however it takes around 10 minutes for the protective
So to preserve the properties, crush or chop garlic at least 10 minutes before cooking.
Another antioxidant rich food is onions. Rich in the plant pigment quercetin which belongs to a group called flavonoids.
Frequently when peeling an onion it can be quite easy to peel off all of the outer layers, however it is these layers that contain the richest concentration of the antioxidant.
So to preserve the goodness, only peel the outer brown layer from the onion.
You may steam your vegetables and not overcook them as this will prevent the vitamin content from being lost. Primarily vitamin C which is degraded by heat.
However when you cook tomatoes, carrots and peppers (capsicum) you don’t need to be concerned. As during the cooking process the antioxidants become more concentrated.
For example the lycopene content in tomatoes and peppers becomes richer and more bioavailable, as does the carotene content in carrots. Crisping up Kale in the oven also increases its carotene content.
However there is a difference in increasing the content by correctly cooking (roasting/sautéing in a little extra virgin olive oil) vs boiling the vegetables in water which will certainly leach out the nutrients.
One really helpful way to ensure you have all the nutrients in your meal is by including raw and cooked vegetables.
Try a mixed salad with roasted red and yellow bell peppers and tomatoes. Add a dressing of vitamin C rich lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and raw crushed garlic and basil. Heaven!