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We all need Oxygen; without it we cannot release the energy from the foods we eat needed by every single cell in our bodies which in turn, drives all the bodily processes. Oxygen is highly reactive and can be very dangerous. Oxygen can become unstable and capable of ‘oxidising’ neighbouring molecules. This can cause damage on a cellular level which can cause cancers, inflammation, arterial damage and aging. These damaged cells are known as ‘free (oxidising) radicals’ and is the body’s equivalent of nuclear waste and must be disarmed in order to be non-threatening.
These free radicals are created in all kinds of combustion processes in the body from smoking, exhaust fumes from burning petrol, frying, radiation or even barbecuing food. The saviour for these free radicals? Anti-oxidants. Known anti-oxidants are nutrients such as vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamins C and E to name a few. Simple changes to your diet can tip the scales between life and death.
To reduce ‘oxidative stress’ on the body and to ensure maximum anti-oxidant protection we need to ensure that we are consuming a diet high in anti-oxidant nutrients. Through research, animals being fed in this way were shown to live up to 40% longer but were also more active during their lifespan (Kotulak, R. and Gorner, P., 1992).
Research has shown that low levels of vitamin A in the blood has consistently been found in people who have developed lung cancer (Bond, G. et al., 1989) and that a high intake of beta-carotene from raw fruit and vegetables helps to reduce the risks of lung cancer developing in non-smoking men and women (Mayne, S. T., 1990).
A study conducted, supplementing a 30mg a day supplement of beta-carotene resulted in 71% of patients with oral pre-cancer improving, whilst 57% of the patients who were given 200,000iu of vitamin A a day had complete remission (Garwal, H. S., 1990). A reduction of blood pressure was also found when supplementing 1000mg of vitamin C per day (Osilesi, O. et al., 1991).
Your bodies’ ability to stay free from poor health conditions such as arthritis, colds, chronic fatigue syndrome and reduce symptoms of AIDS depends on your diet and the balance between bad free radicals and your intake of good anti-oxidants. Early signs can include wrinkles forming at an early age, difficulty recovering from infections, bruising easily, thinner skin and slow healing are a few. Also note that another way of determining your anti-oxidant levels is a reduced ability to detoxify the body. For example this could be that you feel moody or achy after a burst of exercise or being subject to a room full of smoke.
Other note worthy anti-oxidants which are not essential nutrients include berries, grapes, mustard and broccoli and although they are not essential they are still very beneficial. The main essential vitamins are vitamin A, C, E and beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is mainly found in red, yellow and red fruits along with vitamin C. Vitamin E is mainly found in nuts and seeds due to being an ‘essential fat’.
Below is a table with the best anti-oxidant foods giving sources of vitamins A, C and E with a star rating of 1 to 3 (3 being the very good, 1 being good).
Try to incorporate as many of the foods listed above into your diet as possible as these foods have a great nutritional value and not to mention the high anti-oxidant potential.
Always try to eat a healthy balanced diet where-ever possible ensuring that you consume lots of fresh fruit daily and try to limit your exposure to free radicals (ie. Smoky rooms, barbeque etc…) and try to keep a healthy exercise regime and not to over train.
Garwal, H. S. et al., ‘Response of oral leukophakia to beta caroteme’, J. of Clin. Oncology, vol 8, 1715 – 1720, (1990).
Holford, P., ‘The Optimum Nutrition Bible’, Piatkus, London, (1997)
Kotulak, R. and Gorner. P, (eds), ‘Aging On Hold – Secrets of Living Younger Longer’, Chapter 5 by R. Walford, 51-73; Tribube Publishing, USA, (1992).
Mayne, S. T., ‘Dietary vitamin A and Lung Cancer: Results of a case-control study among chemical workers’, Nutrition and Cancer, vol 9:2,3, p109 – 121, (1987).
Osilesi, O. et al., ‘Blood pressure and plasma lipids during ascorbic acid supplementation in borderline hypertensive and normotensive adults’, Nutrition Research, vol 11:405-412, (1991).
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