Part VE: The Chemistry of Nutrition
Here we are at the conclusion of this blog series on The Chemistry of Aging. To quickly review, aging is slowed and health is improved when we balance our pH by:
4) Optimizing Our Diet
Optimizing Our Diet involves a) drinking plenty of water at the right time and temperature, b) consuming the correct proportion of foods that alkalize the body, c) balancing the intake of raw vs. cooked foods, and finally d) incorporating both DEFENSIVE as well as OFFENSIVE tactics against free radicals. Defensive tactics involve PREVENTION through omitting or limiting practices that encourage free radical production in the body. Free radicals are the natural by-products of metabolic processes within the body, but excessive free radicals are produced by sun exposure, stress, pollution, heavy metals, and surprisingly intense exercise (due to increased oxygen utilization)(1). Note: I am not saying that exercise is bad! Highly processed foods are major culprits of free-radical production, so once again, it is important to eat only “real food.” Lastly, an imbalance in body chemistry will increase free radical production. Balancing our pH, as summarized in the four principles above, is one measure that will reduce the amount of free radical production in the body. Offensive tactics against free radicals involve the DESTRUCTION of these thieving atoms. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods is one way to combat the ill effects of free radical mischief.
Although, the chemistry of free-radicals and antioxidants may not be of particular interest to you, a basic understanding will help to explain the connection to our health. “Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules." (2) These electron-deficient atoms search for other electrons to grab onto, and they will steal electrons from healthy cells in the body, CAUSING DAMAGE and CREATING other unstable atoms, which speed the aging process and increase the risk for disease, including cancer. Additionally, the free electrons may pair off with parasites and bacteria, which are comparable in size, leading to the proliferation of these pathogens and more free radicals.(3) This is a basic explanation of “free radical damage.”
On the other hand, “Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged.”(4) They do this by donating electrons to free radicals, thus restoring healthy cellular structure with even numbers of electrons. These micronutrients cannot be created by the body, so we must eat foods that contain these vitamins and minerals. Foods rich in antioxidants are rated on a scale called Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, abbreviated as ORAC value, or "ORAC score,” which is “a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements. It was developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health.”(5) As an herbalist, I am THRILLED to find that the top 20 highest ORAC rated items (and beyond) are ALL HERBS AND ESSENTIAL OILS!!! Incidentally, most of these herbs are those that are used in Italian cuisine. Imagine the cancer-fighting power of Italian food that is replete with olive oil, tomatoes and antioxidant herbs!
Click Hereto download a FREE compiled list of antioxidant-rich foods, herbs and other supplements, all categorized by vitamin content.
An optimized diet should incorporate a variety of health practices, including a “real food” diet that is high in antioxidants. These foods are best eaten in their whole, natural state vs. the preservative and artificial additive-laden stuff that modern grocery stores promote as “food.” We must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” testing everything vs. buying into the lie about what is classified as “food” these days! Follow these guidelines to experience abundant life and health, and see my Infographic on Pinterest for a visual representation of these 5 Keys to Health & Youth. Want to learn more? Contact me for a consultation—I would be happy to customize an herbal and nutritional protocol for you! I have clients around the globe, so location is not a limitation-- technology has allowed me to work globally!
UPDATE: Small amounts of antioxidants that are naturally-occurring in the foods we eat are beneficial to our health, but it is important to remember that the role of an antioxidant is to BLOCK OXYGEN in order to prevent oxidation of the nutrients in plants as they develop. For instance, tocopherol in wheat germ protects the Vitamin E that is produced in the germ. Without this protection, the germ would not mature, and the wheat would die. This oxygen-blocking action is for the benefit of the plant, but in the human body, high levels of oxygen-inhibitors wreak havoc on health because, as we know, a healthy body is an oxygenated body! Oxygen is necessary to fight every disease known to man, inlcuding cancer.
I previously bought into the "theory" that free radicals are detrimental to our health, but after much research I now understand that it is nothing more than a theory. I want to be clear that naturally occurring antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, and herbs are NOT bad for our health, but high dosages of antioxidants in the form of supplements, especially SYNTHETIC versions (such as tocopherol and ascorbic acid), are the real culprits Equally, free radicals are necessary for healthy phagocytosis to counter microbes in the body. For more information, read my Blog series: "The Devil's Advocate" and download this FREE list of "Reputable Studies Conducted on Antioxidants" that disprove the Antioxidant Theory, showing an increase in all-cause mortality when they are used in human beings.
3 June M. Wiles, Choose Life or Death, Preface, p.10, Dr. Carey A. Reams with Cliff Dudley, N.C.A., Inc./ Holistic Wholesalers, 2002.