Sparks that Burn
Every cell in our body needs oxygen to function. Oxygen “burns” glucose molecules, which creates the energy that fuels every aerobic process in our body. No oxygen? Game over. Carbon dioxide is the byproduct, which we breathe out as a waste product.
This process is called oxidation. Oxidation is also what causes things to burn, metal to rust, and apples to turn brown. Oxidation breaks things down…whether it’s sugar in our cells or old bikes left in the rain. Imagine a roaring bon fire..and hear and see the sparks that fly out. These sparks are analogous to what’s produced during oxidation in our bodies, and are known as free radicals.
Free radicals are the result of incomplete oxidation, and occur naturally. They are responsible for zapping invading microbes for our immune system, and kicking our muscles into high gear during anaerobic respiration. But as with every powerful tool, it’s a double-edged sword. And factors such as pollutions, cigarette smoke and disease increase their occurrence, creating what’s known as oxidative stress, an imbalance in the cells’ natural ability to detoxify itself.
In essence, these free radicals aren’t done “burning”. As they fly around uncontrollably, they come into contact with other molecules, causing damage. This breaks down cellular function, damages DNA, causes aging and destroys other compounds needed by the body. Every disease known to man is either caused by or made worse by oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are the Fire Fighters!
Antioxidants are the bodies only defense against free radicals. They electronically neutralize the unstable “sparks” and prevent further damage. Just imagine the little cellular factories responsible for the trillions of processes that must occur each day, and visualize sparks that are flying everywhere…randomly disabling machines, burning holes in instruction manuals and damaging work stations.
The logical answer might appear to be high doses of antioxidant vitamins and supplements. But new research is not supporting this hypothesis, which has created a 23 billion dollar/year industry. According to the American Heart Association, research does not indicated that vitamin supplementation reduces disease. Digestive processes and bioavailability are far more complicated than once thought. At best, taking vitamins make expensive urine. At worse, toxicity and drug interactions net a harmful effect. If they did what marketing campaigns claim, how is it that health care costs have risen 10 fold since 1980, to nearly 3 trillion dollars?
Plant-Based Diet: Waking Up Healthy
The answer is simple, available to everyone, and has been with us all along. The bottom line for disease prevention? There is no substitute for a healthy diet! Fruits and vegetables contain over 12,000 living, biologically perfect vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals, and micronutrients, occurring in correct doses and combinations perfectly designed for human health. A good multi-vitamin might have 10-20 chemically isolated and/or synthetically produced nutrients. Nature has created an elaborate orchestra for life, with living systems intricately dependent on hormonius and perfectly timed rhythms.
Plant foods contain significantly higher amounts of antioxidants. And though meat and dairy foods do contain some antioxidants, they also contain unhealthy saturated fats, cholesterol, acidic and disease-promoting proteins, and they do not contain fiber.
Fiber aids in digestion, lowers cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and keeps the intestines and colon free of stagnant pockets of diverticulitis. As 80 percent of our immune system exists in our colon, having a well-moving, clean system is critical. Disease prevention requires antioxidants. Disease proliferation requires fiber!