Anti-Oxidants-What are they and do they make foods “Super”?

9 04 2010

In medicine we have a saying, “oxygen is good.” Generally, it holds to be one of those self-evident truths clearly visible time and again as one travels throughout the hospital. Given that fact, and knowing that oxygen is a critical component in keeping clothes oxiclean whiter, why would anyone want something anti-oxygen? It’s like being anti-kitten or baby seal.

Well, the truth is that like too many oysters and white Burgundy, too much oxygen in the wrong setting can be detrimental. It’s because the normal necessary-for-life-hard-working oxygen becomes a radical sort. The oxygen that removes stains is what is called an oxygen free radical, or just radical. These oxygen atoms are different because they have an unpaired electron. It makes them very peevish. It allows them to become susceptible to fundamental atomic activities which in essence make them very reactive and destructive. Oxygen radicals in biologic systems, of which our bodies are part, consist primarily of superoxide and hydroxyl radicals. These are biological jihadists. They are necessary for certain functions like proper immune system function and can be produced through a process known as oxidation. However, when they are not tightly regulated they can become the problem. These radicals within our bodies can interact with normal cell structures and become weapons of self destruction.

Anti-oxidants are very simply molecules which interfere with the process of oxidation. Anti-oxidants come in many flavors; vitamins, enzymes, water-soluble, fat-soluble, phytochemicals, polyphenols, carotenoids, etc. Every other “super food” or health benefit these days seems to come with the tag line “rich in blah blah blah a super source of anti-oxidant(s).”  Truth be told, a diet too rich in anti-oxidants can have adverse consequences as many of these compounds can prevent binding of other important nutrients. An example can be seen in developing countries where diets are often low in protein and high in consumption of beans and unleavened whole grain breads. The anti-oxidants such as oxalic acid, tannins and phytic acid actually prevent absorption of calcium and iron resulting in deficiency states common in these regions.

What is clear is that a balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables (and I include a balance of vino ruber in my balanced diet) is the key. So don’t get sucked into the hype of the latest “super food” diet or other off the deep end silver bullet quick fix. Eat well and eat with variety. Have your fruits and veggies and a nice protein as well. As Buddha would say, salvation lies in the middle path.




6 responses

9 04 2010
Jen Fletcher

Hi, Doctor Mike, does this also relate to blood pH?
Thanks, Jen.

9 04 2010

Hi Jen,
Not really I believe other than pH can effect enzyme function.

9 04 2010

Thanks for the info Doc as I tend to sin with an excess of carbs and not enough proteins! I will take note, promise!
By the way, you mentioned sumac and I have got two sumac-laden dishes for you one with chicken and tonight the fattoush; have a great weekend!

9 04 2010

Thanks-you too. Can’t wait to check it out now that I’ve found a local Mid-Eastern Grocer!

11 04 2010

You are the Super Anti-OxiDoc with these posts!

Chef E

Also could I duplicate this post for one of our ‘health’ days on Partners In Wine Club? I will link up!

Happy golfing, watch out for feisty groundhogs, and those caddy shacks, lol

12 04 2010

Absolutely Mi posts et sui posts 😉

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