Other than air and water, we need amino acids, essential fats, vitamins, minerals and a wide variety of antioxidants. There are eleven essential amino acids, a dozen essential vitamins, several essential fats and well over 5000 antioxidants. As I have discussed in earlier articles, we can live with a remarkable variety of diets – ranging from the rice diet, with just white rice and caned fruits, to just an all meat diet. Optimal nutrition, however, includes a wide variety of real food. The vast majority of food available in grocery stores approaches junk food category. White flour and bread, sugar, pop, almost all boxed cereals, candies, cakes, and quick-fix packages top the list of just plain junk food. Iceberg lettuce which is at least a relatively real food is among the least nutritious ones. And there is tremendous evidence that a huge percentage even of the fresh fruits and vegetables, grown on mineral deficient soils and/or sprayed with various chemicals, fall far short of optimal. Ross Hume Hall’s book FOOD FOR NOUGHT raised the many issue three decades ago and numerous current articles discuss the wide variation in quality of food.
Almost everyone knows that vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene are essential antioxidants, neither being independently that useful. They are synergistic and must be integrated. The thousands of other antioxidants are less well known – there are over 4000 flavonoids, including a variety of phenols, reservatols, caffeic acid, quercetin, ubiquinone, as well as anthrocyanins etc, all part of nature’s bounty. And the evidence is strongly in favor of getting these from a wide variety of real foods.
The top foods in total antioxidant capacity are:
Apples, apricots, pomegranate, blueberries, cherries, mango, oranges, red pears, strawberries, bananas, raspberries, artichoke hearts, red kidney beans, red cabbage, kale, yellow peppers, eggplant, raw carrots, red leaf lettuce, black-eyed peas, red cabbage, spinach, sweet potatoes, prunes, figs, raisins, pecans, walnuts, almonds, dark chocolate, black or green tea, cooked tomatoes or juice, peanuts. Russet potatoes come way ahead of even whole grain bread and white bread is really a negative. Of course all real plant food has some antioxidant benefit. Ground cloves, cinnamon, oregano, and turmeric are among the top tier of antioxidants – even a fourth teaspoon of any of these beats most of the vegetables and some of the fruits.
The bottom line: EAT A WIDE VARIETY OF REAL FOOD.