Antioxidant Rich Chocolate Cherry Sunrise

The eyes are highly metabolically active. In fact, the retina has the highest metabolic rate of any tissue in the body and is therefore vulnerable to oxidative injury. The most notable antioxidants which help to support the eye are vitamin C, vitamin E; the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin; selenium and phytonutrients. One method of assessing the antioxidant capacity of a particular food is expressed in ORAC units (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). Spices such as cloves, cinnamon and turmeric have a very high ORAC value. Natural cocoa, coffee and green tea are all great sources of antioxidants and have high ORAC values. Other foods high in antioxidants include berries, nuts, dried fruit, vegetables and beans.

Culinary preparation influences the quantity of antioxidants present in a particular food. Since many antioxidants are found in the peel or outer parts of fruit and vegetables, peeling eliminates a significant portion of antioxidants. When berries are boiled to make jam, the heat denatures the antioxidant capacity of the vitamin C and phytonutrients. Jam has little antioxidant capacity especially when compared to fresh berries. Steaming vegetables retain more antioxidants than boiling in water. The nutrient lutein found in kale is more accessible to our bodies when the plant cell walls are broken down through cooking or pureeing.

Oxidation is a natural process that occurs during normal cellular function as oxygen is needed to produce energy by the cells in our eyes and bodies. Free radical formation is derived from this normal metabolic process and from external sources like x-rays, cigarette smoking, air pollutants and sunlight.

Free radicals have a strong affinity for electrons and can damage cells and genetic material. To help with the battle against free radicals, every cell in the body creates its own antioxidant enzymes to diffuse free radicals. In addition, we can acquire antioxidants from food. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function and to reduce oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in age-related macular degeneration, age-related cataract formation, glaucoma and other diseases. Including antioxidant rich foods in your diet everyday will help to reduce the risk or slow the progression of many chronic eye diseases associated with aging.

Chocolate Cherry Sunrise

4–8oz servings

  • 1 1/4 cup hot coffee, freshly brewed
  • 4 dates, pitted, diced
  • 3/4 cup tart cherries, frozen
  • 1 banana, cut into chunks, frozen
  • 2 tsp matcha green tea powder
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder of choice
  • 3 T natural cocoa powder
  • 2 T almond butter
  • 2 red kale leaves, ribs removed
  • 5 ice cubes
  • 4 tsp cacao nibs
  • mint, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Allow dates to steep in the hot coffee.
  2. Place the rest of the ingredients into a high speed blender.
  3. Add the coffee and dates.
  4. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  5. Pour into glasses, sprinkle with cacao nibs. Garnish with mint.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

Calories: 205 kcal; Protein: 9.5 g; Carbohydrates: 36 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Fat: 5.25 g

Antioxidant Highlights:

Coffee: caffeic acid

Tart Cherries–3 egg: vitamin A, vitamin C

Almond Butter: vitamin E, vitamin B2, fiber

Green Tea: epigallocatechin gallate

Kale: vitamin A, vitamin C, lutein+zeaxanthin

Natural Cocoa and Cacao Nibs: folate, procyanidin

ORAC Values:

Coffee: 15,000

Tart Cherries: 3,474

Almond Butter: 4,454

Green Tea: 1,384

Kale: 1,770

Natural Cocoa: 55,654

Cacao Nibs: 62,100

Foods That Fight Inflammation

Acute inflammation is a normal and healthy part of the body’s immune response; it is needed for healing an injury or fighting an infection. However, chronic inflammation inside our body diminishes our body’s ability to repair itself. Researchers believe inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. Eye conditions associated with inflammation include age–related macular degeneration, dry eye and uveitis.

An anti–inflammatory diet helps to promote the lowering of overall levels of inflammation in the body. Certain foods can ramp up the body’s inflammatory response while other foods dampen the response. Two essential fatty acids important to the balance of inflammatory response are omega-3 and omega–6. Omega–3’s form the building blocks of a number of anti–inflammatory compounds and lower the production of inflammatory proteins. Foods high in omega–3 fatty acids include oily, cold water fish like mackerel, salmon and black cod. The pro–inflammatory omega–6 fatty acids are found abundantly in corn, safflower and peanut oils, as well as processed and refined foods. The current recommendation is a ratio of one omega–3 fatty acid to four omega–6 fatty acids.

Culinary herbs and spices contain a vast array of powerful phytochemical compounds many which have anti–inflammatory properties. Turmeric is a highly pigmented root noted for both its anti–inflammatory and anti–oxidant attributes. Turmeric most notably is found in tandoori and curry powders. Ginger root is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine having both anti–inflammatory and anti–nausea properties. Oregano, basil and rosemary are delicious anti–inflammatory herbs. The phytonutrients allicin and quercetin found in garlic and onions have immunity boosting properties. Antioxidants protect the body from the inflammatory effects of free radicals. Colorful food like berries and peppers, as well as kale, beets and green tea are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Food high in fiber helps to minimize the inflammatory response that can occur following a rapid increase or decrease in blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include raspberries, beans, legumes, vegetables and cinnamon.

While dietary changes are not intended to supplant traditional medical therapies recommended by your doctor, food offers a delicious symphony of nutrients with anti–inflammatory disease–preventive benefits. The researchers at Oregon Health & Science University state that tart cherries have the “highest anti–inflammatory content of any food.” Making smart food choices to keep the immune system in balance will help facilitate health and well being. According to Emperor Charlemagne in the 9th century, “An herb is the friend of physicians and praise of cooks.”

Tandoori Seasoning©

Makes about 2/3 cup

  • 3 T paprika, sweet or smoked
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 T dehydrated minced onion
  • 1 T dark brown sugar
  • 2 T dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, optional

Directions:

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container.
  3. Store at room temperature for up to one month.

Suggested Uses:

  1. Sprinkle on steamed vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
  2. Rub onto salmon or cod; drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven.
  3. For Tandoori Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Discard the stringy mesh around the seeds but do not rinse. Spread onto an oven safe pan and sprinkle with the tandoori seasoning. Bake at 300 F for 10 – 15 minutes until light and crispy.

Can Fish Oil Relieve Dry Eyes?

If you have dry eyes, there may be a simple way for you to treat the problem and get a number of other health benefits, too — start taking a daily fish oil supplement.

Fish oils and fatty fish — such as salmon, tuna and sardines — are excellent sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) that are important to health.

Fatty acids are important for the normal production and functioning of cells, muscles, nerves and organs throughout the body. Fatty acids also are required for the production of hormone-like compounds that help regulate blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting.

Essential fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, are called “essential” because our bodies can’t produce them; to stay healthy, we have to get them from our diet.

Fish oil contains two important “long chain” omega-3s called eicoapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Our bodies need EPA and DHA for many vital functions, including producing tears to keep the eyes moist and healthy.

Other health benefits of EPA and DHA include reduced risk of heart disease and a reduction of chronic inflammation that can lead to a variety of serious diseases, including osteoarthritis, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Daily supplements of fish oil, when used alone or in tandem with lubricating eye drops, appear to reduce dry eye symptoms, including burning, stinging, redness and intermittent visual disturbances.

For example, a recent study published in Ophthalmology demonstrated that adults with dry eye symptoms who took daily oral supplements of omega-3 fatty acids totaling 360 mg EPA and 240 mg DHA for 30 days experienced an increase in tear secretion, a decrease in the rate of tear evaporation and a reduction in dry eye symptoms, compared with controls.

Based on these results and findings from other studies, many eye doctors are recommending fish oil supplements for their patients who suffer from dry eyes.

Some research suggests these same omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

If you don’t like the idea of taking fish oil supplements every day, it appears you may obtain the same benefits by eating grilled cold-water fish at least three times a week. Good sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s include salmon, sablefish, tuna and halibut.

Is There a Vegetarian Alternative?

If you are a vegetarian, you can use freshly ground flax seeds or liquid flaxseed oil as an alternative to fish oil for the treatment of dry eyes.

But there’s a catch: Instead of containing EPA and DHA, flax seeds and flaxseed oil contain a “short chain” omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that must be converted to EPA and DHA during digestion. And this conversion process isn’t very efficient. Our bodies convert only about 5 percent of dietary ALA into EPA and DHA.

You can purchase whole flax seeds in bulk at most health food stores. To get the greatest nutritional benefit, grind the seeds with an automatic coffee grinder right before you use them. Sprinkle the freshly ground seeds over salads, add them to a smoothie or mix them in fruit juice.

Flaxseed oil supplements are available in capsules or as a liquid. The capsules may seem more convenient, but you have to take a large number of them to achieve the daily dose of EPA and DHA many eye doctors recommend to treat dry eyes.

Also, the nutritional value of flaxseed oil is easily destroyed by light, heat and oxygen. So when purchasing flaxseed oil, look for a cold-pressed variety and keep it refrigerated to prolong its potency.

Precautions

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish are classified as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, fish oil can cause stomach upset and/or diarrhea in some individuals, especially if taken in high doses.

Other possible side effects include increased burping, acid reflux, heartburn and abdominal bloating or pain. Risk of these side effects can be minimized if you take fish oils with meals and if you start with low doses.

Also, some fish oil supplements have a fishy aftertaste. This can be reduced by refrigerating the capsules or liquid, or by purchasing brands that promise no such problems.

Concerns about mercury poisoning from fish oils generally are unfounded. When present in waterways, methylmercury accumulates in fish meat more than in fish oil, and testing of fish oil supplements show they generally contain little or no mercury. Still, if this is a concern, using flaxseed oil as an alternative eliminates this issue.

As with any nutritional supplement, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before taking significant quantities of fish oil or flaxseed oil for dry eyes to avoid unwanted side effects or interactions with any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you may be taking.

For example, fish oil and flaxseed oil can increase the risk of bleeding if you are taking blood thinners (even aspirin).

Also, long-term use of fish oil may cause a vitamin E deficiency in some individuals. If you begin taking a daily fish oil supplement for dry eyes, consider taking a vitamin E supplement as well. For safety, discuss your plans with your physician or eye doctor before taking any nutritional supplements.