Dr. Fuhrman will tell you, antioxidants are strong medicine. In fact, antioxidants and other phytochemicals are profound cancer-fighters. He explains:
The most dramatic finding in nutritional science in the last fifty years is the power of plant-derived phytochemicals to affect health. Phytochemicals, along with the rich assortment of powerful antioxidants found in unrefined plant foods, fuel a defensive system that removes toxic cellular metabolites that age us. Phytochemicals also are required for maintenance and repair of our DNA.
Cancer may be promoted by toxic compounds, but we have cellular machinery, fueled by phytochemicals, to detoxify and remove noxious agents and to repair any damage done. Our body is self-healing and self-repairing when given sufficient nutrient support to maximize efficiency of protective cellular machinery. But, only when we consume large amounts of green vegetables and a diversity of natural plant foods can we maximize phytochemical delivery to our tissues.
And some new research links antioxidants and “rabbit food” to healthy eyeballs. Here’s looking at you kid! Karen Ravn of The Los Angeles Times reports:
Surprisingly, despite their reputation, carrots are probably not near the top of the list. Certainly, the vitamin A they're full of is necessary for eye health, says Dr. Michael Marmor, an ophthalmology professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. "But people are generally not vitamin A deficient in our society, and a high dose doesn't do any more good."
The most useful vegetables, according to new research, seem to be the leafy green ones -- such as spinach, kale and collard greens -- which are rich in the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
These are also the only carotenoids found in measurable amounts in the eye, says Bill Christen, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School. "That adds credence to the idea that they could be of benefit," he says.
Christen is lead author of a new study published this month showing that people who eat diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin are less likely to develop cataracts than others whose diets included less of those nutrients. A second new study by Australian scientists that is to be published next month, found similar results for age-related macular degeneration.
But while these studies show a diet-eye health relationship, they do not directly demonstrate cause and effect. Only one study to date has shown specific nutrients can cause reductions in risk for eye disease.
By you’re probably saying, “Where can I get some of those antioxidants?” Here’s a decent list of antioxidant sources from Diana Kohnle of HealthDay News. Take a look:
- Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and juices; berries and other fruits; dark green vegetables; red and yellow peppers.
- Vitamin E, found in vegetable oils, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.
- Selenium, found in whole grains, most vegetables, chicken, eggs, and most dairy products.
- Beta carotene, found in colorful fruits and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, apricots, cantaloupes and mangoes.
I’m not feeling the vegetable oils, but I tell you one thing. I love sesame seeds! I sprinkle them on lots of things and according to Dr. Fuhrman they’re packed with antioxidants. Check it out:
Sesame seeds have the highest level of calcium of any food in the world. Interestingly, they not only have a highly absorbable spectrum of vitamin E, they increase the bioactivity of vitamin E in the body.1 Comparing the many forms of vitamin E in sesame seed with the vitamin E in supplements is like comparing a real horse to a toy horse. Sesamin, a sesame lignan, has beneficial effects on postmenopausal hormonal status, raises antioxidant activity in body cells, decreases the risk of breast cancer, and lowers cholesterol.2
Speaking of sesame seeds, here’s a little dialogue Dr. Fuhrman and I had about sesame seeds. And yes, we’re a little nerdy. These are the types of things we discuss. Enjoy:
Me: Are there any significant nutritional differences between regular sesame seeds and black sesame seeds?
Dr. Fuhrman: Regular sesame seeds are hulled, the outer brown cover it removed and along with it 90 percent of the calcium and other minerals. It is like comparing white bread to whole wheat. Brown and black sesame seeds are almost equal nutritionally but the important thing is neither has the hull removed.
Me: Gotcha. I buy raw black and brown sesame seeds from my farmers market. The black have an interesting peppery taste.
Anyone else enjoy black sesame seeds? I find they go great over spinach or blended into seed and avocado-based salad dressings.
1. Cooney RV; Custer LJ; Okinaka L; Franke AA. Effects of dietary sesame seeds on plasma tocopherol levels. Nutr Cancer. 2001; 39(1):66-71.
2. Wu WH; Kang YP; Wang NH; Jou HJ; Wang TA. Sesame ingestion affects sex hormones, antioxidant status, and blood lipids in postmenopausal women. J Nutr. 2006; 136(5): 1270-5.