To Your Health
July, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 07)
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A Healthy Diet: Key to Free-Radical Reduction

The diet that immediately reduces post-meal free-radical production is one that contains vegetables and lean protein (meat, fish, chicken, wild game, etc.

Fruit and nuts have similar antioxidant effects. We should embrace the fact that it is very difficult to consume excessive calories if fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins are our primary calorie sources. (Note: It is possible to overconsume nut calorie, so moderation must be applied.)

Research has demonstrated that we get additional antioxidant benefits from ethnic spices. Consider adding ginger, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, basil, oregano, dill, coriander, fennel, red chili pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and other spices to your meals.

By the way, as might be expected, weight loss is a common outcome of anti-inflammatory or anti-free-radical eating. And as we now know, excess body fat is a promoter of inflammation and free-radical activity.

Supplements to Reduce Free Radicals

Regarding antioxidant supplements, undue emphasis has been placed on vitamins C and E, which are only two of the numerous nutrients that function in the human body's antioxidant network. Most B vitamins also play a role, as do magnesium and vitamin D. We get adequate amounts of B, C and E and most minerals in a multivitamin, so supplementing with these single nutrients is unnecessary.

It is also important to understand that after vitamins C and E reduce free radicals, these vitamins become free radicals that must be reduced by our body's antioxidant system, which is primarily dependent on the diet described above. (Not all antioxidants seem to become free radicals after neutralizing a free radical; some become less reactive after they do their job.) We can support the antioxidant system with key supplements, some of which are not typically viewed as antioxidants, such as magnesium and vitamin D. While magnesium and vitamin D do not reduce free radicals directly, they do support the antioxidant enzyme systems in the body that function to reduce free radicals.

Magnesium: Two of magnesium's many functions in the body include supporting the efficient production of cellular energy and proper blood sugar regulation - both of which help reduce free-radical production by our cells. Approximately 400 mg of supplemental magnesium is the common recommendation. Conditions associated with low magnesium intake include headaches, accelerated atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, renal tubular disorders, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, asthma, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (conditions that may develop during pregnancy), and even sudden death.

Vitamin D: Recent research indicates that vitamin D supports key antioxidant enzymes, and vitamin D is known to be the key nutrient in maintaining proper immune balance, which leads to less free-radical and inflammatory damage. Without adequate vitamin D, we are at risk for numerous diseases including joint pain, muscle pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, cancer, depression, schizophrenia, syndrome X (also known as metabolic syndrome), diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and infections.

It is now very easy to determine your vitamin D levels via a simple blood test. Individuals with hypercalcemia (elevated levels of calcium in the blood) need to be wary of vitamin D supplementation. For all others, a supplemental level of 4,000 IU per day is a common recommendation.