Grocery shelves are full of products with labels bragging that they contain antioxidants and implying that you’re just a few bites (and a few bucks) away from better health. But it’s not that simple. More is not necessarily better when it comes to antioxidants. And research has found that how you consume them can make a big difference in your health. To help distinguish the myths from the truth, here’s a close look at the latest on antioxidants.
MYTH: Antioxidants are all vitamins.
TRUTH: There are thousands of antioxidants, but relatively few of them are vitamins. Some are minerals and others are enzymes, which are protein molecules that facilitate chemical reactions necessary for cells to function properly.
What antioxidants have in common is their ability to block the action of free radicals, those unstable chemical fragments that can wreak havoc on healthy components in your body’s cells. This damage can cause cells to grow and reproduce abnormally, part of a dangerous chain reaction. In time, that process is thought to play a role in chronic conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Your body produces free radicals during exercise and when converting food into energy. And your body generates antioxidants to help stabilize them. Other factors — cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and exposure to sunlight and such environmental contaminants as pesticides — trigger the production of more free radicals, which can potentially overwhelm your body’s natural defenses. Antioxidants in foods, especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can come to the rescue.
MYTH: All antioxidants are created equal.
TRUTH: Different antioxidants fight different free radicals, and they work well together. For example, Vitamin C recycles Vitamin E. Once a molecule of Vitamin E neutralizes a free radical, Vitamin C converts that molecule of E back to its antioxidant form, allowing it to combat more free radicals.
The synergistic effect among thousands of antioxidants is a major reason doctors, dietitians and other experts advise people to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Even though scientists have yet to pinpoint all the ways those compounds protect against disease, many observational studies suggest that people who consume a greater amount of antioxidant-rich foods have a lower risk of certain diseases than people who don’t.
MYTH: Be sure to eat pomegranates, berries and other “super fruits.”
TRUTH: All fruits are “super.” Each type of fruit or vegetable has a unique combination of healthful compounds, including antioxidants. By eating only those billed as “super,” you shortchange your health by skipping those combinations of nutrients in other produce.
MYTH: You should amp up your intake with supplements.
TRUTH: Focus on food instead. Overall, clinical trials that have examined the disease-fighting capability of specific antioxidant nutrients in supplement form haven’t shown very promising results.
Talk with your physician about supplement use, because some studies have suggested that some can cause harm. Selenium supplements of 200 micrograms a day have been linked to a higher incidence of recurrence of non-melanoma skin cancers in people who previously suffered such a cancer.
MYTH: If some antioxidants are good, more are better.
TRUTH: Too much can be problematic, so beware of multi- and single-antioxidant capsules labeled “megadoses,” which contain more than the recommended daily values for antioxidants. Some evidence suggests that when taken in megadoses, antioxidants can become pro-oxidants, which increase the production of free radicals, especially in people who drink alcohol or smoke.
It’s much less likely that you’ll consume too many antioxidants from food. But eating one type of fruit or vegetable in excessive amounts can result in some odd, if harmless, effects. For example, consuming extremely large amounts of carrots or other vegetables rich in beta-carotene can result in orange-tinted skin.
MYTH: Packaged food with labels that promise antioxidant benefits will boost your health.
TRUTH: Antioxidant claims on packaged food don’t always mean a health benefit. Some food manufacturers add an antioxidant, such as Vitamin C or E, and then label the product as containing antioxidants, presumably in hopes of boosting sales.
Kellogg’s FiberPlus Antioxidants Dark Chocolate Almond bars, for example, have 20 percent of the daily value of Vitamin E and zinc. But they also contain seven grams of sugar and five grams of fat. You can avoid processed food and eat an ounce of dry-roasted almonds, which provides more Vitamin E, and three ounces of lean beef, which has more zinc.
Synthetic vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, kills beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut and cannot confer vitamin activity in the body
Most people nowadays are well informed about the numerous health benefits of vitamin C, and find ways to incorporate it in their diets, either by taking supplements or eating more foods that contain the vitamin. While the many benefits of vitamin C are well-documented, such as its ability to boost the immune system, there are less well known facts about the synthetic version of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid, the synthesized version of vitamin C, has been proven to kill bacteria effectively, which makes it effective in killing parasites and infections. Unfortunately, it does not differentiate between the good and bad bacteria in the gut, and wipes out good bacteria in the gut which is mandatory for vibrant health.
Ascorbic acid defined
Synthetic vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is not found in nature. It does not grow naturally in plants or trees and cannot be grown on a farm. It can only be made in a lab. Contrary to popular belief, ascorbic acid and vitamin C are not the same thing. Ascorbic acid is not a complete vitamin, but really only the outer layer of the complete complex known as vitamin C. The complete complex of vitamin C as found in natural food sources is composed of these elements:
– Rutinbiofavonoids (vitamin P) factor K
– Factor Jfactor P Tyrosinase
– Ascorbinogen ascorbic acid
All of the above elements must be present in order for the body to absorb and benefit from the vitamin complex. Since synthetic ascorbic acid does not contain the full complex, your body must either gather the missing components from the body’s reservoir, or simply eliminate the ascorbic acid from the body through the urine without benefit to the body.
You’ll find ascorbic acid in all sorts of products, from vitamin C supplements to bottled tea drinks and fruit juices such as apple juice. The straightforward method to confirm its presence in a product is to simply read the ingredient label. However, as founder of AGM foods in Brisbane, Australia Alan Meyer found out, many times ascorbic acid can be found in foods even though it’s not listed on the ingredient label.
The microbe-neutralizing properties of ascorbic acid and its source of origin
Mr. Meyer had been following a recipe to make a fermented apple drink. The recipe called for pure apple juice, so he bought a bottle of organic apple juice. After running some tests on his concoction, he found that the apple juice had killed the friendly microbes in it even though according to ingredient label on the bottle there was nothing in the juice but organic apples. He ran the process again to confirm that it wasn’t just a fluke and sure enough the microbes were destroyed once more. After calling the company he found out that they were indeed adding ascorbic acid to the juice as a preservative to kill off bacteria. Unfortunately, ascorbic acid doesn’t just kill harmful bacteria, but also kills beneficial bacteria. Ascorbic acid has the same effect in our bodies as it does in juice.
Ascorbic acid is synthesized from corn syrup. So not only do we need to be concerned with its impact on intestinal flora, but with its potentially disastrous GMO corn-based origins. These days, if you cannot verify that any corn-based food that you consume is certified organic, you risk ingesting GMO corn, the health risks of which are well-known by knowledgeable NaturalNews readers.
The real vitamin C solution
Naturally-occurring vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C has the curious habit of breaking down when heated. This means that when food is heated, the vitamin breaks down and becomes useless. Since pasteurization is a form of heating (boiling to kill bacteria), any pasteurized beverage therefore becomes void of natural vitamin C complex. Ascorbic acid was therefore invented as a synthetic replacement of the natural form of vitamin C which is destroyed by heat. Unfortunately, ascorbic acid simply cannot replace the real, natural vitamin complex. Add to that the bacteria-neutralizing behavior of ascorbic acid which destroys health-critical beneficial microbes, and you have a substance which we’d all be better off to avoid as health-minded individuals.
So what is the solution to all this? The thing to do is avoid vitamin C supplements, pasteurized products, and pre-bottled teas and juices containing ascorbic acid. Get your vitamin C from natural, organic, uncooked fruits and vegetables. Some foods that contain the highest amounts of vitamin C are:
– Citrus fruits
– Acerola Cherry (fresh or powdered forms)
– Black Currant
– Bell Pepper
– Brussel Sprouts
– Kale, chard, and spinach
Again, remember to consume foods in their raw form. If heated, the natural vitamin C complex is destroyed.