Alberta Cancer Foundation

Recipe: Easy Tomato Bruschetta

Most of us have heard of antioxidants.

We know they’re good for us. We know they’re in dark chocolate and we may use this as an excuse to consume more chocolate than we probably should. But beyond this, few of us have a clear idea of what antioxidants actually do.

To break it down, the cells in our body use oxygen to carry out many different cycles. This includes metabolism, the process where the food we eat is turned into fuel. During this process, we produce things called free radicals, single molecules that float around, trying to find another molecule to pair with.

Free radicals that do get away on their own can cause damage to our cells. We’re not inherently doomed, as our bodies are pretty good at getting rid of them on our own. However, too many free radicals can lead to a variety of diseases. Enter the antioxidant. What antioxidants do is seek and destroy free radicals and, as a result, stop or prevent the damage to our cells. Antioxidants may also improve immune function and are thought to lower your risk for infection, as well as cancer.

The lucky thing is that these antioxidants occur naturally in all kinds of food. They’re mainly in bright-coloured fruits and veggies and can also be found in some oils, fish, meats, gains, wine, green tea and, yes, even chocolate. The bottom line is this: Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods and should be consumed regularly to help minimize your risk of cancer and other diseases.

Now that it’s summer, why not visit your local farmer’s market and experiment with a new fruit or vegetable? Fruits and vegetables offer additional health benefits beyond antioxidants. They’re high in fibre, low in fat and offer a variety of vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are also beneficial to maintain a healthy weight – sadly, something dark chocolate can’t do for us! All of these aspects are helpful to reduce your cancer risk.

Tania Vander Meulen is a registered dietitian. She works for Alberta Health Services and is a private consulting dietitian at Kensington Physical Therapy and Dynamic Sports Physiotherapy.