Have you noticed the different varieties and colors of fresh, raw, ripe fruit and vegetables? They form a veritable rainbow. These colors are the key to good nutrition and the different antioxidants in the foods.
What is an “antioxidant”, anyway? When we burn oxygen, we get by-products: smoke with fire, rust with iron, and free radicals with exercise, or just with breathing. Burning oxygen is necessary but the by-products are bad guys. Antioxidants take them out for us.
The body constantly manufactures free radicals. These are toxic molecules produced as a result of metabolism and irritants. Free radicals attack DNA causing these cells to mutate which can be the first step in cancer. In fact, free radicals are involved in a great deal of what goes wrong in the body, from cataracts to coronary artery disease to cancer. Fortunately, nature has provided us with a way to neutralize free radicals - the antioxidants found naturally in ripe, raw fruits and vegetables. That's why studies continually show that people who consistently eat the most fruits and vegetables have such reduced rates of degenerative disease. Other studies show that consumption of fruits and vegetables help make our bodies more resistant to infectious diseases as well. However, in the May 1997 Journal of Nutrition, Dr. Ernst Peterhans of the University of Berne in Switzerland takes the potential role of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables one step further, suggesting that antioxidants may affect the genetic make-up of the infectious disease itself and thereby alter its effectiveness.
The deeper the color of your food, the more of the antioxidants you are getting. Many antioxidants appear to be tissue-specific or organ-specific in their effects. Red foods contain lycopene, the pigment in tomatoes and watermelon that may be involved in maintaining prostate and skin health. Yellow-green vegetables, such as corn and leafy greens, contain lutein which is localized in the retina where age-related macular degeneration occurs. Red-purple foods contain powerful antioxidants that are found in red apples, grapes, berries and wine. Orange foods, including carrots, apricots, pumpkin contain B-carotene. Orange-yellow foods, including oranges, tangerines and lemons contain citrus flavonoids. Yet what color is our Standard American Diet (SAD for short)? Beige!
The National Cancer Institute, The American Heart Association, The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health all recommend that we eat five to thirteen servings per day of fresh raw fruits and vegetables to help prevent lung, breast, colon, prostate and other cancers, to slow down the atherosclerotic process, prevent heart disease, and reduce your risk of stroke and blindness due to macular degeneration.
Initially people thought these antioxidants could function separately in our bodies. However, current research emphasizes the importance of balance and synergy when it explains their function. They go on to explain how certain antioxidants such as vitamins C and E enhance each other's activity in the body; sort of an "antioxidant network". This network is our shield and protection against aging and destructive, degenerative disorders. Individual vitamins have been tested but they fail to protect. They lack the presence and synergistic activity with the thousands of other essential phytonutrients found in raw fruits and vegetables. This emphases the importance of whole food.
Antioxidants are phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) which are essential to health and the prevention of most degenerative diseases in your body. Antioxidants, which occur naturally in whole foods, are one of the most important groups of compounds under discussion in health seminars today. The more you learn about these antioxidants the more you will understand their profound influence on your health and aging.
The old “food pyramid” is out. The new recommend daily guidelines are found on www.choosemyplate.gov Check out The Plate. You can print a picture for your fridge and post it for the family.
Next week: We begin Heart Healthy Month... taking a look at what makes our tickers tick.
Disclaimer: Facts in these articles are obtained from medical and clinical journals, scientific publications, and published trade books. These articles have been written and published strictly for information purposes. Consult your health care provider for your specific medical needs. For any questions, comments or suggestions, contact Maryella at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.maryellajuiceplus.com