Functional foods that pack a healthy antioxidant punch

Antioxidants work in our bodies to prevent or slow the damage done by free radicals. Like rust on a car, oxidation can damage our cells and may contribute to age-related health problems. Antioxidants are known to provide anti-aging properties and, according to the American Dietetic Association, may even increase immune function and possibly decrease the risk of infection and cancer.

While 70 percent of us are aware of antioxidants and their health benefits, most may not know how to easily incorporate high antioxidant foods into our busy, fast-paced lives. Simple solutions for a balanced and healthy lifestyle include eating a diet rich in “functional foods” or foods with a purpose — foods that offer far-reaching benefits beyond just satiating our appetites — such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The good news is thereâ??s no need to sacrifice health for convenience. For example, Sunsweet Antioxidant Blend is a delicious dried fruit blend of cherries, plums, wild blueberries and cranberries, which are four of the highest scoring, free radical fighting fruits according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Fruit snacks are a healthy choice because they are high in antioxidants and offer multiple functional benefits. For example, prunes, also known as dried plums, are considered a “super fruit” because they are not only high in antioxidants; they also promote a strong immune system, improve heart health and are good for healthy bones.

“Functional foods are an important part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and physical activity,” says Steve Harris, vice president of marketing at Sunsweet Growers. “Functional dried fruits, like those found in Antioxidant Blend, offer a quick, convenient and healthy snack, as well as a nutrient-packed ingredient that can accent a tossed salad, enhance baked goods, or sweeten up any favorite recipe.”

Try these tasty suggestions to get the most out of functional dried fruits:

* For a treat thatâ??s smart to eat, combine with raw almonds for a powerful and satiating snack.
* To enhance a meal, add to a mixed greens or spinach salad for added flavor and nutrition.
* For a boost to your breakfast, start by mixing the blend with hot oatmeal and benefit from the whole grains and fruit.
* Add a flavorful punch to any baking recipe by mixing the blend in breads or bran muffins.
* Add pizzazz to appetizers and snacks by pairing with low-fat cheeses.

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Courtesy of ARAcontent


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