The Antioxidant Story: The Daily Battle of the Free Radicals
New reports show that the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink, everyday stress, and even our bodies` normal use of oxygen create toxic molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable, reactive compounds that carry an extra electron. This allows free radicals to react with other molecules in the body, which can damage cells` protective membranes and alter the way that cells encode genetic information in the DNA.
Unless neutralized, these "oxidative" reactions create still more free radicals. The harmful effects of oxidative damage appear to be cumulative.
Enter The Cell Protectors: Antioxidants
Perhaps the most exciting new studies are examining these antioxidants - vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and the trace mineral selenium - and their effects on these cell-ravaging free radicals, when taken at protective levels. In addition, researchers are discovering that other trace minerals, such as zinc and manganese, are also essential for the antioxidant activity of the enzyme called superoxide dismutase.
Are Current Government Daily Recommendations for Antioxidants at Protective Levels?
No. Preliminary data show that antioxidant levels having a positive effect on protecting cells from free radicals are significantly higher than the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (U.S. RDA). Research evaluating protective amounts of supplementation typically involves 400 IU of vitamin E, which is 1,333% of the U.S. RDA; and 1,000mg of vitamin C, which is 1,666% of the U.S. RDA. Protective levels of beta-carotene also may be much higher than current suggested levels.* Minerals associated with antioxidant activity are required at U.S. RDA levels on a daily basis.
*The body converts beta-carotene, which does not have a U.S. RDA, to vitamin A.
Can Your Regular Diet Provide Enough Antioxidants?
It takes a great deal of effort, but yes, you can get protective levels of antioxidants from your regular diet. This includes three to five servings of fruit daily. A serving of vegetables equals one cup of raw leafy greens or a half cup of other kinds. Also, itīs best to eat vegetables raw because some of their nutrients are lost through cooking. For fruits, a serving is one medium orange or banana, a half cup of small or diced fruit, or six ounces of juice.
A good rule of thumb is to choose fruits and vegetables that are yellow or orange, as well as vegetables that are leafy, dark green. A few examples are: citrus fruits, apricots, pumpkin, carrots, squash, spinach and broccoli. Nuts and fresh, cold-pressed vegetable oil are also excellent sources of vitamin E, although they should be included in the diet sparingly as they are very high in fat. For examples, you would need to eat 156 pounds of cashews or 3 1/4 quarts of corn oil every day to get 400 IU of vitamin E.
What about Taking an Antioxidant Supplement?
You have seen that it can be extremely dificult to secure cell-protective amounts of antioxidants from your regular daily diet. In addition, the way foods are prepared may also lower their antioxidant content. For example, vitamins and minerals can be lost in boiling or poaching. Even light and heat can destroy some nutrients. Also, the mineral content of soil can affect food nutrient values.
So, the most convenient way to insure that your daily diet is full of antioxidants is to take a supplement specially designed for this purpose. And, because nutrients must be eaten in amounts that enhance their effectiveness, specially designed formulations are desirable for insuring the highest level of cell protection. Preventive NutritionTM Cell ProtectorTM Formula, avaible exclusively at General Nutrition centers, is the most comprehensive, high-potency combination of antioxidant nutrients on the market. Of course, along along with taking any vitamin and mineral supplement, nutrition experts recommend eating a balanced, low-fat diet and following an overall healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, no smoking and moderate amounts-- if any --of alcoholic beverages.