Doctor’s Tip: Don’t rust, eat antioxidant-rich food
Oxidation involves the removal of electrons from atoms or molecules, creating unstable particles called free radicals. In their book “Beat the Heart Attack Gene,” Bradley Bale and Amy Doneen state that oxidative stress is “an imbalance between formation of free radicals and protective antioxidant defenses.”
An example of oxidation in nature is rusting of metal. Another example is when you cut an apple in half and leave it out and the white part turns brown (the peel doesn’t because that’s where most of the antioxidants are). In our bodies, oxidative stress makes us more prone to aging, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The following lead to oxidative stress:
• Lack of exercise.
• Too much exercise such as running marathons.
• Unhealthy diet.
Antioxidants neutralize oxidative stress, and fruit and vegetables are high in antioxidants. Vegetables with intense color such as greens, peppers, red cabbage and onions, black rice and yams are particularly high in antioxidants. So are intensely colored fruits, such as berries, oranges and mangos. Foods with intense flavors such as herbs and spices are also high in antioxidants.
You can find out how many antioxidants various foods contain by going to http://bit.ly/antioxidantfoods. Researchers who put this list together said “antioxidant-rich foods originate from the plant kingdom, while meat, fish and other foods from the animal kingdom are low in antioxidants.” Here are some examples:
• Iceberg lettuce, one of the plant foods with the least nutrients, has 17 antioxidant units.
• Fresh salmon 3 units.
• Chicken 5 units.
• Skim milk and hard-boiled eggs each have 4 units.
• Egg Beaters 0 units.
• Cherries 714 units.
• Some berries have 1,000 units.
There is a lab test called F2 isoprostane that Bale and Doneen call the “Lifestyle Lie Detector” because it is a biomarker of oxidative stress. A normal level is less than 0.86, while optimal is less than 0.25. I see elevated results in people with unhealthy lifestyles and also in overexercisers.
Supplement and pharmaceutical companies have tried to jump on the antioxidant bandwagon and sell antioxidant pills. However, we evolved to get our nutrients by chewing our food, not by taking pills. As Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (featured in the “Forks Over Knives” documentary available on YouTube, authored “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”), if we present our body with a “symphony of nutrients” by eating plants, our body has an amazing ability to take out what it needs.
If we overwhelm our body with huge doses of single antioxidants and other nutrients in the form of pills and even juicing and smoothies, this causes problems. For example, the antioxidant vitamins are A, C and E. But studies show that people who take more than 400 units a day of vitamin E in pill form have more heart disease, and smokers who take vitamin A supplements have more lung cancer.
For optimal health, you need lots of antioxidants in your diet, and the way to get them is by eating plants, and chewing your food.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at email@example.com.
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