Which of the following can neutralize “bad” cholesterol, so it doesn't damage your arteries?
(a) Papaya (b) Sweet Potato (c) Nuts (d) None of the Above (e) All of the Above
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The correct answer is (e): All of the above
All three are rich in health-promoting antioxidants.
In the Nurse's Health Study (that's still under away) researchers compared the diets of more than 73,000 nurses and found that a diet rich in vitamin E (found in nuts) reduced heart attack risk by 52 percent, a diet rich in vitamin C (abundant in papaya) reduced risk by 43 per cent, and a diet rich in beta-carotene (plentiful in sweet potatoes) reduced risk by 38 per cent.
Nurses who regularly took in this trio of nutrients were 63 percent less likely to have heart attacks than those who did not (!)
This is Part II in a short series on free radicals, their sources, the impact they have on the body, and how antioxidants affect them.
Part I can be found .. here
What are some of the effects on our bodies from all of this electron stealing?
One consequence is something known as lipid peroxidation (aka, turning body fats rancid) and it's a very big deal, because of the effects it has at the
Every cell in our body is surrounded by a double-layered sheet of fats that envelopes it like the coziest of cashmere blankets. To keep its contents happy, warm, and protected, these fats also act as the strictest of gatekeepers, keeping close tabs on the nutrients that enter .. along with the waste that leaves
If the blanket wears thin or develops holes, and these important fat cells are compromised (by attacks from free radicals), our precious DNA has now become exposed to them as well. Once DNA has been compromised, as the cells replicate, they'll be doing so with the damaged version, and sadly, our body will begin regenerating ..
Another consequence is oxidation (or the loss of an electron).
Certainly, oxidation isn't all bad, as it's a byproduct of so many of our most basic functions. For example, our metabolism and breathing. For the most part, or bodies have built-in mechanisms that are on the job for the majority of this clean-up
Trouble begins to brew when we have too many oxidative reactions going on at any given time. When the delicate balance between the renegade free radicals and our antioxidant defenses is thrown off, and our bodies enter the state of
Once the body reaches this state, there are heavy tolls it can have on our health.
To mention a just few (the list is terribly long!) premature aging, lowered immune function, increases in allergy sensitivities, inflammation (ex: irritable bowel syndrome) and damage of the muscles or joints (ex: arthritis).
There can also be nerve degeneration, as happens in the case of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Not to mention the exponentially increased risk for some of the most serious diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer
Never fear, as our bodies have a broad spectrum of protective responses to mop up all of the messes (though we need to do our part as well)
Antioxidants are on the job, with their main goal being to distract.
Essentially they self-sacrifice, offering themselves up to be oxidized by the radicals instead of our cells. They're not destroyed necessarily, but become a weak (aka, kinder and gentler) free radical, one that isn't likely to attack an innocent bystander in the same way a free radical from a trans-fatty acid would
Vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, and the minerals zinc and selenium are antioxidants, with Vitamins E and C acting as our first lines of defense.
Vitamins E and beta-carotene both are used in the fatty membranes of the cell, effectively sponging them up before the vagrants can poke holes in the protective cashmere blanket they form
Vitamin C works in the watery innards of the cell, coping with, and making certain the radicals are flushed away into the urine.
(Trivia: Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant, and Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant found in the body)
We also have three enzyme systems that play a part in the antioxidant defense system.
There is superoxide dismutase, whose sole purpose is to eliminate superoxide, a type of free radical
Beyond superoxide dismutase, other enzymes convert the free radical hydrogen peroxide into water and harmless oxygen. Quality-control enzymes degrade oxidatively sullied proteins and fats, or clip out damaged pieces of DNA and then sew in new, healthy ones
Bruce Ames, a biochemist at the University of California at Berkeley, has estimated that each cell endures 10,000 oxidative hits every day from errant free radicals, and nearly all are immediately repaired
That's a lot(!)
Certainly, our bodies are making valiant efforts in the fight, and luckily there are lines of defense we employ that will help out
Eating foods that are high in antioxidant nutrients is a great place to start. They tend to be our highly colored fruits and vegetables, squashes, dark leafy greens, red and yellow peppers, and blue and red berries
Increasing the nutrient density in our diets should be an ongoing goal
Most important is to reduce the exposure to the free radicals in the first place
Supplements? Certainly, there are many available that contain antioxidant formulas. Though a word or two of caution. Biochemists are quick to point out the flaw in the theory that if antioxidant vitamins are good for you, then more must be better
They say our bodies always tend toward homeostasis (aka, balance), and the consumption of one type of antioxidant vitamin can result in dampening the body's own means of cleaning up these excess free radicals
Pretty incredible stuff
One of my go-to smoothies as of late
There's something about beginning the day with a superfood smoothie that helps reduce any sugar cravings I may have and sets me up for better eating habits for the rest of the day
Filled with all good things: vegan protein powder, spinach, avocado, and chlorophyll. The cacao nibs providing a bit of dark chocolate crunch without being too overpowering
Chlorophyll is very alkalizing to the body, and I've been taking a shot every morning for the past few months
Wishing for you the happiest of weekends ahead
ps: You can read more about free radicals in Part I of the series
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~ Adapted from Food Coach NYC
Superfood Smoothie with Greens and Cacao Nibs
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend for 30-60 seconds until smooth.