We always try to go above and beyond at Connections – Care@Home so we not only provide the best in-home care, but we also provide excellent health advice. Visit back periodically and you’ll find new up-to-date health advice that will help transform your life for the better.
Previously, we noted that free radicals are a naturally occurring substance in our bodies that if left unchecked, have the ability to cause diseases ranging from everyday illnesses to cancerous growths. The next question to ask is, where do these ‘free radicals’ come from? Free radicals are everywhere – in the air we breathe, radiation, drugs, metals such as copper and aluminium, cigarette smoke, and in foods such as alcohol and meat. The challenge we face is when they build to such a mass that they begin to damage our cells, tissues and promote degenerative changes that result in ageing, heart disease and cancer. Hence the need for us to pay more attention to the foods!
In 2002, the W.H.O. (World Health Organisation) examined the strength of evidence on the relationship between our fruit and vegetable intake against our health. The experts concluded that an increased consumption of fruit and vegetables can possibly reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and some cancers; gastric, oesophageal colorectal, lung, laryngeal and pharyngeal. The W.H.O. recommended that we should eat a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetable a day, which is the equivalent of 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables.
Antioxidant and possible actions
Tomatoes, watermelon, guava
Lycopene: antioxidant; cuts prostate cancer risk
Carrots, yam, sweet potatoes, mangoes, pumpkins
Beta-carotene: supports immune system; powerful antioxidant for fighting cancer
Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, papayas, peaches
Vitamin C, flavonoids: inhibits tumour cell growth, detoxifying harmful substances
Spinach, Kale, collards and other greens
Folate: builds healthy cells and genetic material.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower
Indoles, lutein: eliminate excess estrogens and carcinogens
Garlic, onions, chives, asparagus
Allyl sulphides: destroy cancer cells, reduce cell division, support immune system
Blueberries, purple grapes, plums
Anthocyanins: destroy free radicals
In 2003, the UK Government, following the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, put in place a strategic plan to improve the nation’s health and reduce the number of certain types of cancers. The five-a-day plan was introduced to increase the number of fruit and vegetables we consume in our diets.
Now just to emphasise this point, although the W.H.O. is recommending a minimum of five a day, eating more than this can promote even greater health benefits – further reducing the risk of those life threatening diseases listed above.
As we mentioned previously, antioxidants form a protective layer around the bad molecules reducing the oxidative stress on the good molecules (remember the lemon illustration) but it is of great importance to eat a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables as they contain different types of antioxidants that focus on dealing with specific problems.
Be cautious when taking antioxidants as a supplement instead of food:
- Too large a dose of one antioxidant can suppress the action of another. For example, too large a dose of beta carotene pills, which creates vitamin A, can deplete the body’s supply of vitamin E. Vitamin A pills are toxic in large doses, whereas eating foods like carrots and sweet potato that are high in beta carotene and carotenoids can be converted to vitamin A when the body needs it.
- Supplements do not furnish the same protection as does eating the foods.
Now this is not to say that supplements should not be used but that we need to be careful about how we use them. They should be taken in modest doses. As the saying goes ‘More of a good thing is not always a good thing’.
We cannot avoid free radicals so we need to strengthen our body’s antioxidant defence by eating a diet rich in foods especially fruit and vegetables, which will help promote healthy cells.
Our bodies have the ability to prevent many diseases if we provide it with the right nutrition. All fresh fruits, whole grains and nuts provide an abundance of nutrients. If we eat a variety of these foods every day, our need for vitamins, minerals and fibre is easily met.
A tasty recipe that includes wholesome vegetables.
- 250g (8.8 oz) of cooked macaroni
- 150g chopped green beans
- 250g diced carrots
- 1 sweet red pepper
- 2 tomatoes
- 50g black olives (sliced)
- 1 onion
- 2 tablespoon tomato puree
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon oregano/basil
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon of honey.
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 100ml water
- Prep all the vegetables sauté them with water and onion in a pan for about 5 minutes so that they are not too soft but still with a slight crunch
- Add the remaining ingredients, cover pan and cook on low fire for 7-10 minutes
- Add the cooked vegetables to the macaroni
- Serve hot or cold
Homemade Pineapple and Mango Ice-cream
This summer loving recipe is sugar free, cholesterol free, dairy free, gluten free.
- 300g frozen pineapple
- 300g frozen mango
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 150ml of coconut milk (or any non-dairy alternative milk).
- Add the milk first to blender, then add the fruit a bit at a time to prevent the blade from stiffening and blend gradually
- If too stiff add some more milk but be careful not to add too much or the mixture will be too runny
- Once the mixture is thick and smooth serve straight away
- You can add granola, toasted hazelnuts, or crushed biscuit
Healthy red blood cells
There has been a lot of hype in the media and lifestyle magazines about antioxidants and free radicals. They are the buzz words in almost every health article, and any search engine will give definitions of these terminologies, ranging from the technical biological jargon to the basic simplistic plain English definitions.
For the purposes of the series we will do on Antioxidants and free radicals a simple working definition will suffice. Breaking up the word ANTI – OXIDANT will be a good start:
- Anti – means acts against, and in the sense we are going to use this prefix, we will use the word counteracts as this idea will be the most helpful.
- Oxidant- or oxidise means to combine with oxygen. Oxidation is a process where molecules combine with oxygen. An easy example of this is what happens if you cut an apple and left it for a little while, it goes brown or develops a rusty colour, right? That is oxidation. If the apple is left for a long while it begins to decay. However, having a layer of protection between the exposed fruit and the air will lessen the rapid spread of oxidation. So if you squeeze lemon juice over the exposed fruit, this will give it a layer of protection.
- Free radicals – So what are these? It sounds like a Greenpeace pressure group, right? Well pressure may be the operative word in the role they play in our bodies, but there is nothing green or peaceful about them! They can lead to all manner of ailments, from simple mild conditions, to various cancers, so they need our attention.
The human body needs healthy cells to run efficiently and keep us in good health.
Simply put, free radicals are the by- products of normal cellular activity as the body uses oxygen. They are unstable in nature and to gain stability they latch on to healthy cells and in doing so they can harm the healthy cells, causing oxidative damage, which lead to disease.
Antioxidants to the rescue: Do you remember the protective layer of lemon juice we mentioned earlier? Well this is what antioxidants do, they form a layer of protection around the cell to lessen the damage of oxidative stress.
There are foods that harm us and foods that heal us and we are constantly being told to eat our five-a day of fruit and vegetables. This is the reason why, to help our bodies fight off those free radicals which float around in our blood stream and can wreak havoc to our health. A healthy diet helps to counteracts oxidative damage.
There are many different kinds of foods which are rich in antioxidants and each month we will be presenting some of the top 20 foods, giving recipes which retain the essential vitamins and minerals that can be lost through cooking.
Selenium is an important antioxidant enzyme. This helps to prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium. As well as the foods listed above, this trace mineral can be found in rice, oats, sunflower seeds and wholegrain bread.
Helps maintain healthy hair and nails, enhances immunity, works with vitamin E to protect cells from damage. Reduces the risk of cancer, particularly lung, prostate, and colorectal.
Garlic, seeds, Brazil nuts, eggs, seafood, whole grains. The amount in plant sources varies according to the content of the soil.
Fruit & Vegetables
See how much you know about Antioxidants and Free Radicals. If you haven’t read the article on Antioxidants and Free Radicals, read the article entitled “Antioxidants and Free Radicals”.
1. What is a free radical?
a) A cell that promotes health throughout the body
b) A naturally or artificially occurring substance that causes disease if left unchecked
c) A vitamin that is distributed at no charge by health food stores
2. What are the best ways to prepare vegetables to retain the most antioxidant activity?
a) Served raw
c) Steam slightly
3. Which of the following can neutralise bad cholesterol so it does not damage your arteries?
b) Sweet potatoes
d) All of the above
4. Which drink gives the most heart-healthy antioxidant power?
a) Red wine
b) Green tea
c) Cranberry juice
d) Pomegranate juice
e) Orange juice
5. Which action causes free radicals to form potentially putting you at greater risk of heart disease?
b) Taking high amounts of single antioxidant
d) All of the above
e) None of the above
6. Which statement is false?
a) In general, the more colour in fruit and vegetables, indicates greater antioxidant activity
b) Consuming different coloured fruit and vegetables in a meal will usually ensure a wider variety of nutrients
c) Try for 3 servings of vegetables a day
d) Eating lots of antioxidant rich foods and vegetables will fill up, preventing you from over eating
7. Which of the following statements is true as it relates to the genes and free radical activity in your body?
a) Free radicals promote gene and cell division
b) Your DNA is unaffected by free radicals
c) Free radicals can cause genetic mutations
d) Free radicals can cause cancer
e) Two of the above
8. Which of the following does not contain antioxidant?
d) Whole grains
f) None of the above
To read the answers to the quiz, click here!