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Antioxidants are natural substances that are found in many types of foods. There is a long list of antioxidants but all work to reduce the damaging effects of oxidation within our bodies.
Oxidation: the short version of what oxidation is the body’s response to converting toxins to a safer element.
Even when our cells make energy there is often a residue of oxidation. Antioxidants help to protect the body from those processes so that our cells, organs, and blood remain healthy and able to function.
How to Grow the Best Antioxidants
Vitamins and Antioxidants
Vitamin A, C, and E are three vitamins that are rich in antioxidants. Most people know that blueberries are a great source of antioxidant but so are carrots, beans, and most fruit. Vitamins are often larger compounds that break down into simpler forms that our body uses to make important tools such as antioxidants.
The Idea of Growing Antioxidants
In general, there are two camps of thought on how to go about growing foods as a healthy boost or even as medicine. One philosophy is to grow a lot of foods in a short period of time and then saving those foods for use during the year. The other philosophy is to grow a garden that produces what you need as close as possible on a year-round basis.
A good example of how these schools of thought impact the local prepper is to consider blueberries as a crop. The fruit production of blueberries is fairly short – Mid July through August usually. You would need to grow many blueberry plants to obtain enough fruit to last all year.
On the hand, you can look at other types of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and consider growing these so that you have a fresh food source all year long that is also rich in antioxidants.
Personally, I enjoy having more than one type of plant available, so I grow a garden year-round. This way if a crop should fail or something does not thrive, I have a backup source for food. There are reasons why this may not work for everyone.
What are the Best Antioxidants?
Glutathione, Lutein, and vitamins such as A, C, and E are all important antioxidants. Vitamin A is rich in Beta-carotene, vitamin C is ascorbic acid, and vitamin E which contains tocotrienol and tocopherol. It is very difficult to say which of the antioxidants is the best because they all do different things in different ways.
It seems very logical that as a prepper trying to add natural antioxidants to your diet that you would want to have foods available that offer you many forms of antioxidants. To that end, a garden that has many types of foods and the ability to produce many types of fruits is best. In the following paragraphs, we look at how to start that process and list some of the foods that are easy to get started for almost everyone.
Foods that are rich in vitamin A
Vitamin A is found in my different foods. Carrots are one of the best sinks for vitamin A. A single cup of raw carrots has around 330 percent of your RDA – Recommended Daily Allowance – for vitamin A. Carrots are also fairly easy to grow, though they have a long germination time – usually around 20-30 days.
Other foods that are rich in vitamin A include leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and chard. You can also obtain vitamin A from herbs such as parsley. If you live in a warmer area you might consider planting sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
Growing carrots requires loose well-drained soil that is free of rocks and other obstructions. This type of soil allows the roots to grow long. Sow seeds about 1/8 of an inch thick in heavily seeded rows and thin the carrots as they start to grow.
Spinach and chard are also easy to grow. Here in zone 8, these tend to be late mid-spring and fall crops. With a little protection, such as a row cover, we can grow both here into the winter. These are plants that tend to bolt in warmer weather, so do not make good summer groups unless you have cool summers.
It is much better to sow spinach directly than it is to try to transplant. With chard, you can either plant seeds or grow/buy seedlings. Both types of seeds are planted ½ of an inch deep in soil that has a lot of organic compounds.
Carrots are easy to grow year-round in most areas and spinach and leafy greens help to add to your sources of vitamin A in spring and fall.
Foods that are rich in Vitamin C
Citrus is an excellent source of vitamin C but these are tropical plants and will not grow in cold regions. Thankfully, there is a whole list of foods that you can grow in your garden that are loaded with vitamin C. Those include brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts – leafy greens such as spinach and kale, as well as tomatoes and squash.
Brassicas are cold weather crops so a prepper’s fall and winter garden with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, spinach, kale, and other greens make an excellent source for vitamin C. Summer gardens with squash – specifically winter squash – and tomatoes.
To grow winter squash, prepare your soil with compost, plant in hills that are 5-8 feet apart. Place three seeds in each hill. Mature plants will send out runners on which fruit will develop. Winter squash is easy to store and is ripe when the attaching vine begins to harden and die. The same process is valid for growing pumpkins.
Foods that are rich in Vitamin E
Two great sources for vitamin E are spinach and broccoli. Both are cool loving crops. For summer crops avocado is a good choice. There are few varieties of cool tolerant avocados but in general, these are trees that do not tolerate cold.
Broccoli can be a fall or spring crop. Generally, it takes about 90 days for crops to ripen. This means you can plant broccoli in the summer or fall about 120 days before the first frost date. In warmer climates, you can often grow broccoli during the winter. The deal with growing foods in winter is that there is not enough light to make plants thrive. Your goal would be to plant early enough to have mature plants before the winter light shifts.
Broccoli and other brassicas like soil that is slightly acidic and full of organic matter. Broccoli is one of those plants that requires a full square foot of space per plant. If you are planting sets then space the seedlings 1-2 feet apart. If you are planting seeds, space the seeds every inch or so and then thin the row as the plants begin to grow.
Foods that have Glutathione
Many of the foods we’ve discussed thus far in this article have Glutathione. These include the brassicas – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, mustards, turnips, arugula, Brussels Sprouts, etc. – These are cool weather plants, and many are really good vegetables for freezing.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that provides many benefits including helping to reduce the risk of cancer and to help fight or prevent inflammation. This is an antioxidant that can help to boost the immunes system and acts as a shield against environmental toxins.
Growing brassicas in your home garden is a good way to increase the level of Glutathione in your available food source. Planning ahead to store/freeze brassicas is a good way to include Glutathione in your diet all year long.
Lutein is an antioxidant that is heavily associated with eye and skin health. You can find lutein in foods that are yellow or brown such as winter squash, corn, green peas and many of the brassicas.
There are several types of peas and they are divided into warm weather and cool loving. Snow peas are great for a fall and winter garden while sugar peas are perfect for a spring and summer garden. The good news is that peas are easy to process and store. You can dry them, can them, or freeze them.
Peas are really easy to go and they grow in many types of soil. These are best planted from seeds. Simply work the ground so that the soil is loose make small holes in the soil with your finger about the first crease of your finger’s tip. Drop in a pea seed and repeat.
We grow peas in rows and space the seeds about 6-inches apart. Doing so makes your job easier when the plants begin to grow. These are vining plants that need to be supported. We use two T-posts and garden twin to create a three-tier trellis on which the peas will cling.
When you plan your garden borrow a lesson from the Koreans. They use a color system to balance their diet. The eat foods that are white, yellow, red, purple, and blue in each meal. Flavonoids help to give food color and many of these are the building blocks of or are antioxidants.
As you plan your garden think about food color, when foods grow, and when they are available to harvest. By doing so, you can build a year-round food source that is rich in antioxidants.
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