Foods that contribute to increased free radicals and free radical production versus foods that help eliminate free radicals and free radical production
One source of damaging free radicals is food. All foods create some degree of free radical damage simply by requiring digestion and/or assimilation (metabolism inherently creates free radicals). Some foods create very few free radicals in their digestion/assimilation yet contribute tremendous amounts of antioxidants to the body. This group includes primarily fresh, raw fruits and vegetables) including juices. Properly prepared superfoods such as Spirulina, cereal grasses (barely, wheat, kamut, etc.), and chlorella also fit into this group as do certain herbs (see below). These foods have so many free radical eliminating antioxidants that the relatively small amount of free radicals created are apprehended, with antioxidants to spare to deal with other free radicals.
These foods usually support the elimination of free radicals indirectly as well. For example: Most people's red blood cells are clumped together due to poor lifestyle choices. This does not allow proper delivery of oxygen, vitamins, minerals and other cellular nutrients to body cells, and also severely inhibits the excretion of cellular waste and elimination of it from the body. This condition, called rouleau, wreaks absolute havoc on one's health and greatly contributes to free radicals production and suppressed elimination of them at the same time. The previously mentioned foods usually unclump the red blood cells so they are free flowing, nutrients can get to the cells and toxins can be carried away. This is a very healthy scenario.
Consuming food cooked at normal temperatures creates significant amounts free radicals and also depletes our metabolic antioxidant enzymes (taking plant enzymes with cooked foods will help). You can dramatically increase your ability to apprehend free radicals by consuming raw, uncooked foods, and taking digestive enzymes (from plant sources) with any food that has been cooked or heated. Cooked whole foods from the plant kingdom, however, still do contain significant amounts of usable, naturally occurring antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and thousands of phytonutrients.
On the contrary, refined foods and cooked animal products (flesh of any creature, dairy and eggs) create large amounts of free radicals and provide few antioxidants to apprehend the free radicals they create. They present a much greater challenge than cooked whole plant foods such as fruits, grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Furthermore, refined foods and animal products have significantly less antioxidant nutrients, if any, making them (nutritionally) quite undesirable. They also clump up the red blood cells (called rouleau - see above). This is not a healthy scenario.
What do I mean by "refined foods"? I am defining refined foods as those that have undergone nutritionally detrimental processing. Examples are be hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils including shortenings, most other heated oils (alone and in products) sugar (sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup), white flours including the "enriched" varieties, etc. These foods contain and create large amounts of free radicals while offering precious little ability to deal with them.
On the contrary, relatively few free radicals are created during metabolism of raw, uncooked plant foods (metabolism creates free radicals inherently) but they provide far more antioxidant nutrients, (including phytochemicals/phytonutrients) that more than offset the small amount of free radical production.
Cholesterol, Heart Diseases & Free Radicals
Cholesterol is not the only factor in heart disease. Cholesterol only comes from animal foods. Be warned that hydrogenated plant oils (nearly all margarines, all shortening, and foods that contain them) form cholesterol when in the body. Read ingredient lists on products so you can avoid these health destroying oils and other harmful ingredients. Free radicals are linked to heart disease and strokes. It is is thought that low density lipoproteins (LDL or "bad" cholesterol molecules) are oxidized, and this causes them to stick to the blood vessel walls, resulting in less blood flow and higher blood pressure due to blood vessel blockage from the cholesterol. Free radical damage to the blood vessel walls can also contribute to blood vessel blockage. Animal products contribute both free radicals and cholesterol to the body, a deadly combination - literally! Animal products with the fat removed do not contribute cholesterol, but have higher concentrations of uric acid forming proteins which contribute to osteoporosis, gout, acid body chemistry, sickness, and aging in general.
As foods age, they contain more free radicals than when they were fresh. The fresher a food is the better. For example: A whole grain, fat free, Vegan muffin that was made today would contribute less free radicals to your body than one that had been packaged up for several days. However, you would be far better off eating the healthy muffin that had been packaged for several days versus a fresh muffin with white flour, white sugar, eggs, dairy and oil. Drying things like herbs and foods and storing them in light proof, oxygen proof containers, or freezing them, will halt free radical production.
For minimizing the extremely harmful effects of free radicals (and for other health reasons), it is far healthier to eat whole Vegan foods than to eat animal products, and healthiest yet to eat whole, uncooked, raw/live Vegan foods. Having a raw salad at every meal (or making it your meal) and consuming freshly made live juices are excellent ways to lessen your body's free radical load and dramatically positively impact your health! Click on "Uncooking with Jamey & Kim" for a gourmet live food recipe and information book.
Should you supplement your diet
with antioxidant supplements?
YES, and NO!
Consuming isolated and/or synthetic vitamins and minerals in the form of supplements is a popular way of getting antioxidants into your system and can assist to a degree. But, when in isolation, these nutrients are not very absorbable or effective at all, and actually have toxicities (some quite severe)!
10,000 i.u. of preformed Vitamin A (not beta-carotene) per day can cause birth defects, for example! Isolated and/or synthetic water soluble vitamins (B complex and C) are almost totally excreted in the urine after doing harm on their way out. Fat soluble isolated/synthetic vitamins are significantly more toxic, and isolated/synthetic minerals can settle out in the tissues without being utilized, causing similar toxicities and serious problems (isolated/synthetic iron found in supplements contributes to heart disease in adults and is a cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6, for example).
Isolated antioxidants can be somewhat beneficial sometimes. However, the body's immune system uses free radicals to destroy foreign bacteria. Isolated or synthetic antioxidants (including preservatives) may weaken the body's ability to do so. Isolated or synthetic antioxidants can also interfere with the body's use of oxygen, and lack of oxygen to our body tissues has serious negative health consequences! Antioxidants in whole foods (in addition to being much more effective), do not interfere with the body's ability to use free radicals constructively.
Whole food sources of true nutrients from the vegetable kingdom do not have any known toxicities! For example: You could get the equivalent of 50,000 i.u of Vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) from a whole vegetable food (along with about 599 other synergistic carotenoids) and never have any toxicity! That's 5 times the amount of Vitamin A that would, and does, have toxicity when it is in isolation. Synthetic beta-carotene has not shown much toxicity, but it has been shown to have no beneficial effects in many studies. Nutrients that are in raw, whole foods are vastly more effective than isolated/synthetic nutrients and also non toxic! Whole food sources of nutrients are the best sources!
The best way to get antioxidants (and a full spectrum of other nutrients) into your system is through whole, raw/uncooked plants (fruits, vegetables, sprouts, and their freshly made juices) and boost that with non toxic whole food based antioxidant supplements including superfoods (superfoods are foods). Some of the best antioxidants and superfoods include algaes (Spirulina, Chlorella), Cereal Grasses (Barley, Wheat, Kamut, Oat), fresh/raw juices and other food concentrates, the superfood blend VitaMineral Green (which contains all of the previous plus more), CoQ10, Ginkgo Biloba, and other naturally occurring plant phytonutrients/phytochemicals, etc. At the same time limit your exposure to all things that create free radicals in the first place! Click Here for the partial list harmful of free radical initiators (from above).
One of our superfood products (VitaMineral Green) that is so high in nutrients (including a plethora of antioxidant nutrients) that it is a far superior total replacement (plus so much more) for isolated and/or synthetic multi-vitamin/mineral products, without toxicity! HealthForce also offers a full spectrum specific herbal based antioxidant product that is exceptionally effective called Liver Rescue II+ is a potent source of the antioxidant Milk Thistle (an herb).