The dictatorship of antioxidants

By Bertrand Dumont

If you care about your health, there isn’t a day that goes by without hearing of the benefits of antioxidants. Antioxidants this, antioxidants that! Pharmaceutical companies even offer you antioxidants in form of pills. However, the most recent studies show that the antioxidants contained in vegetables are more “effective” than those offered in pill form. So, why not make your vegetable garden or fruit garden an inexhaustible source of antioxidants?

What are they? How do they work?

Antioxidants are actually a whole range of chemicals that are considered natural shields against diseases (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc.). In fact, they prevent the dirty work of free radicals, harmful substances inherent in our body, which damage our healthy cells by “oxidizing” them. Bioflavonoids, carotenoids, selenium and vitamins C and E, the main antioxidants, hinder the oxidation of free radicals and therefore their potential damage.

An (almost) inexhaustible reserve of antioxidants

It is with fruit bushes, often called berries, that we find plants with the highest levels of antioxidants.

This is the case of Saskatoon berries, blueberries, honeyberries, cranberries, blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, goji berries, gooseberries, garden blackberries and plums, all of which have very high levels of antioxidants. The more red, blue or blackish fruits are, the higher the content.

Apricots, sour cherries, crab apples and red grapes possess a flesh rather rich in antioxidants. On the other hand, this chemical is found in peach, nectarine, pear, Asian pears and apple peel. In this case as well, the reddest fruits have the most important contents.

Sweet fruit cherries, despite their color, are fruits that contain the least. Nuts and hazelnuts also contain antioxidants.

Most berries are easy to grow. They need sun before anything else and more or less water depending on the species. After the recovery, their fertilization needs are rather minimal. If you take care to select varieties resistant to insect pests and diseases, it is easy to get fruits without the use of pesticides. These berries can easily take the place of shrubs in your layout. The only thing you need to plan out is that they remain accessible for picking. You can even grow them on a balcony. Indeed, there are dwarf varieties of blueberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, redcurrants and garden blackberries. Cranberries and strawberries are naturally small.

Fruit trees, especially those that are hardy, are best planted in your landscaping. You just need to give them enough space to do your pruning (if necessary) and picking.

Not bad in vegetables either

Many vegetables have very good antioxidant concentrations. These include garlic, eggplant (with the peel), broccoli, red cabbage, pumpkin, zucchini, dried beans, leek, red or yellow sweet pepper and peppers.

Artichoke, asparagus, Swiss chard, beet, carrot, onion, pakchoi and tomatoes are moderately rich.

The less rich, which still contain a little, are cucumbers, lettuces or red-leaved mesclun and radishes.

Thyme, oregano, sage, basil, chive, parsley, coriander and summer savory are more or less rich in antioxidants.

You can grow all these vegetables in combination in your flowerbeds, in containers or, of course, in your garden.

Picked, eaten: it’s better

You could say, “Why grow all these fruits and vegetables when grocery stores are full of them? Of course, there is the pleasure of gardening, of getting your own results, of choosing the varieties you like the most to taste or to cook, or just to spend time outdoors. However, there is a strong argument to have a house production. Indeed, as soon as you detach the fruits or fruit-vegetables from the branch where they were growing, or cut your leafy veggies or herbs, their vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels begin to decrease. By picking and eating them almost immediately, you will have almost no losses. You therefore benefit from 100% of their antioxidant powers.

In order to select the varieties that are best suited for your garden, contact garden coaches from the Passion Jardins garden center in your area.