What would a column about Fit Food be without talking about the ubiquitous “superfoods”? From acai berries to green tea to Turmeric, superfoods are touted as having special health benefits like fighting cancer or speeding up our metabolisms. But do they actually work?
For the past several years antioxidant has been a buzzword in the nutrition world, especially related to cancer. It is widely believed that free radicals (unstable atoms within our bodies) are the cause of disease, aging, and cancer. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals by stabilizing them, prevent further molecular damage. Studies were done that showed certain foods high in antioxidants did in fact improve health.1,2 The problem with these studies is that they were done in a lab, with cancer cells and isolated antioxidants in a petri dish. Our bodies and food are much more complex than that and just because we can isolate some polyphenols from a blueberry and it kills a cancer cell in a test tube doesn’t necessarily mean that if we eat a ton of blueberries that we will never get cancer. And this is exactly what new research is showing.
Dr. James Watson, a Nobel prize-winning scientist who helped discover DNA, is now saying that free radicals may actually help to fight cancer and by eliminating them by overdosing on antioxidants we are actually doing ourselves harm.3
So the issue here is too much of a good thing. Eating a colourful, varied diet will provide you with ample nutrients and antioxidants to maintain health and vitality. Problems arise when we start to think that if some vitamins are good for us then more must be better. This is the case with the wide variety of supplements and antioxidant products available on the market. If something is enriched with the latest superfood or has a flashy label with health claims it’s probably too good to be true. As is always the case, the best solution is just to cut out the junk from your diet and just eat clean.
This article was researched and written by Follow @DaraCoxPT
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1. Berry fruits: compositional elements, biochemical activities, and the impact of their intake on human health, performance, and disease.
J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):627-9. doi: 10.1021/jf071988k. Epub 2008 Jan 23.
2. Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):630-5. doi: 10.1021/jf072504n. Epub 2008 Jan 23.
3. Perspective: Oxidants, antioxidants and the current incurability of metastatic cancers. Open Biol.. 2013 3:120144; doi:10.1098/rsob.120144 (published 9 January 2013) 2046-2441