If you’re a health-conscious person, odds are you know that a balanced diet is essential to good health. Protein helps maintain muscle strength and cell function. Polyunsaturated fats can keep the heart vital. Vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, boost the immune system and may even prevent the development of malignant diseases.
These days, vitamins and minerals are readily available to consumers because of supplements. It seems like manufacturers are releasing new, high-tech supplements with increasingly unbelievable health claims all the time. Some customers may feel lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that consuming these products is sufficient in preventing malignant diseases, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
At Mesothelioma Circle, we know that things are not that simple.
Molecular damage to the cells
The environment all around you is filled with free radicals. These molecular hazards damage the integrity of the cells in your body, increasing the risk that they will become cancerous. Free radicals can come from unhealthy foods, pollution or ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Your own body will even generate free radicals as byproducts of the simple act of metabolizing food into energy.
Research presented to the Environmental Protection Agency discusses how asbestos can create free radicals within the body.
However, antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent the damage they can cause. Experts from the Harvard School of Public Health say that there are hundreds of antioxidants. Some are produced by the body itself, while many come from food. Some of the most well-known antioxidants are beta carotene, selenium, manganese, phenols, polyphenols and vitamins C and E.
Be careful of dietary supplements
Antioxidants are usually available in fruits and vegetables. However, people who have difficulty consuming enough of these foods may turn to dietary supplements. Generally, there’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s important to take the health claims attached to these products with a grain of salt.
“Many claims are based on false, insufficient or poor-quality evidence, heightening the dangers of their use during cancer treatment,” experts wrote in Cure Magazine. “There is a very real possibility that antioxidants may interfere with radiation therapy and some chemotherapeutic agents. What patients may gain by taking supplements in short-term feelings of well-being, they may lose in reduced long-term treatment effectiveness. After enduring the difficulties of cancer treatment, it is best to avoid the possibility of minimizing its effectiveness.”
One major reason for this is that the individual nutrients in dietary supplements need to be evaluated within a dietary context. For example, Cure Magazine discussed a study that indicated beta carotene helps reduce the risk of lung cancer. However, greater success was seen among those who consumed the nutrient through food rather than a synthetic supplement.
Overall, it is likely that getting the nutrients you need through food is more beneficial than taking dietary supplements.
Eat the rainbow
Fortunately, selecting antioxidant-rich foods is relatively easy because the fruits and vegetables that contain these nutrients are usually the most colorful.
The National Cancer Institute has a handy list of antioxidant-rich foods:
- Beta carotene is in orange produce, as well as some green ones. Eat sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, mangoes, spinach and kale.
- Lycopene can be found in some reddish foods, such as tomatoes, watermelons, guava, pink grapefruit and blood oranges.
- Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons. You’ll also find it in certain cereals.
- Vitamin E is mainly found in seeds and seed oils, including almonds, corn and wheat germ.
If you have any questions about the safety of antioxidants, whether through food or supplements, talk to your medical team.