As much as we hate to admit it, we know our mothers were right about most things. You know . . . simple, but important, things like always putting on clean underwear before you go out, brushing your teeth every day, and eating fruits and vegetables and not consuming junk and chemicals. And now Mom has science to back her up.
1: Consume Antioxidants for a Healthier, Longer Life
Mom may not have known the
why, but she was certainly right about the what. Let's
first take a look, then, at why you should always eat your fruits and
veggies (as she always said). And one of the top reasons is the
antioxidant alpha-carotene you get when you do.
So what exactly do those
antioxidants that we hear so much about actually do?
Antioxidants counteract the
harmful effects of oxidation, which occurs as a result of several
essential bodily functions. The catch is, though, that it's a
catch-22 situation. The oxidation reactions that sustain life also
release free radicals, and these cause other reactions that damage
cells. What antioxidants do, then, is function to terminate the
damaging free-radical reactions and so counteract the cell-destroying
aspects of oxidation.
But there's another problem .
You know that exercise is a
crucial component of a healthy lifestyle – for weight loss,
fitness, well being, and a host of other wellness and fitness
benefits. But because exercise increases your body's oxygen
utilization, it also steps up the oxidative processes and the
production of free radicals. So, you have to exercise to be healthy,
but then you need something to counteract the associated damage of
oxidation and free-radical production to cells and DNA. And that
"something" may well be alpha-carotene, which you can get
from consuming the right fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants for Better Health and Longer Life
A 2010 study found that alpha-carotene appears to be "associated with a reduced risk of dying," which is definitely good news. "Oxygen-related damage to DNA, proteins and fats may play a role in the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer . . . Carotenoids . . . are produced by plants and microorganisms and act as antioxidants, counteracting this damage. Carotenoids in the human body are obtained mainly through eating fruits and vegetables rich in the nutrients, or through antioxidant supplements."
to the same
study, researcher Chaoyang
Li and colleagues set
out to determine "the
relationship between alpha-carotene and the risk of death among
15,318 adults age 20 and older." They
found that higher blood concentrations of alpha-carotene correlated
with reduced risk of death from certain chronic diseases. In
with a blood concentration of alpha-carotene of 2-3 micrograms per
deciliter had a 23% reduction in the risk of death, and those with a
concentration of 9 or more micrograms per deciliter had a startling
34% lower risk of death.
researchers also found that alpha-carotene may play a greater
role in inhibiting lung cancer than was
that consuming fruits and vegetables with high alpha-carotene content
is "more strongly associated with a decreased risk of lung
cancer than . . . consumption of other types of vegetables."
conclusion? Carotenoid antioxidants – but particularly
alpha-carotene – serve to counteract the "oxygen-related
damage to DNA, proteins and fats" and so
help to ward off
"chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer."
you can find these antioxidants in dark-colored fruits and vegetable
such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, collards, and spinach. All
those things that Mom kept harping on you to eat. She was right, you
2: Don't Consume These Poisons If You Want Health and Long Life
again your mother was right . . . when she told you not to put bad
stuff into your body. You know, things like cigarette smoke, drugs,
too much alcohol, and junk food – which
you probably did anyway when you were young, but try to avoid now
that you're older and wiser. Why
would you want to keep
consuming substances that are toxic, capable of inducing adverse
reactions ranging from headaches to ADD to even seizures? You likely
wouldn't if you knew what they were and how bad for you they really
No doubt, you've heard by now how bad Aspartame can be, but it may be worse than you know.
has been estimated that consumption
of Aspartame can lead to more than
90 different adverse reactions and side effects. These
range from the just
uncomfortable to the definitely
dangerous. And what
makes this even worse
is that you may be inadvertently consuming this substance, which
has been called a
"blatant neurotoxin," even
when you're trying not to.
even if you try to avoid Aspartame-containing soft drinks, you still
may be taking in a good amount of Aspartame. For it is added to a
host of food and drink and medicinal products that we all put into
our bodies almost daily. Here are some of the products that contain
Diet soda (of course)
Protein drinks and bars
is one of the most common calorie-free sweeteners, but you may not be
aware that it took a
long time to get FDA approval. It wasn't until 1981 that it was
approved for use in dry foods. It took nearly a decade of unrelenting
political pressure to get FDA approval for Aspartame because test
results showed associations with seizures and brain tumors in lab
animals. But, despite this possibility of Aspartame consumption
leading to damaged nerve and brain cells, FDA approval was pushed
what happens when you consume Aspartame?
your body processes aspartame," according
"part of it is broken down into methanol. Consumption of fruit,
fruit juice, fermented beverages, and some vegetables also contain or
result in methanol production. As of 2014, aspartame was the largest
source of methanol in
the American diet. Methanol is toxic in large quantities, yet smaller
amounts may also be concerning when combined with free methanol
because of enhanced absorption. Free methanol is present in some
foods and is also created when aspartame is heated. Free methanol
consumed regularly may be a problem because it breaks down into
formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin, in the body."
The hard part, though, is avoiding Aspartame even when you want to because it appears in so many places other than just as the brand-name sweeteners NutraSweet and Equal. It's use is so widespread in foods and beverages because it is far sweeter than sugar and so less of it has to be used for a comparable sweetness level. And this means, of course, that you must be constantly vigilant and do a lot of label reading.
The other culprit, the second substance you should avoid for a longer and healthier life, is sucralose. This artificial sweetener is most often found under the brand name Splenda, but is still found in many food and beverage products. And while it hasn't gotten as much bad press as Aspartame, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that it can have some pretty harmful effects.
In fact, sucralose was
accidentally discovered during attempts to create a new insecticide.
Basically, sucralose is chlorinated sugar, and chlorine is considered
a carcinogen. In addition, it was approved for human consumption
after only fairly short study and most of that conducted with
animals. Without any long-term studies to determine the effects of
sucralose consumption on humans, we just really don't know how
harmful it may be. But evidence keeps coming in.
Sucralose consumption, for
example, has been shown to be connected to several gastrointestinal
problems such as an increase in intestinal pH and reduction in
beneficial intestinal bacteria. Ingesting this substance has been
associated with side effects that range from the mildly irritating to
the downright dangerous, things like coughing, skin irritations,
anxiety, and even depression. So if you've been experiencing any of
these, it might be a good idea to check your sucralose consumption.
Still, there are many
reputable authorities who claim that sucralose is perfectly safe. So
what's the big deal?
big deal is that sucralose (unlike sugar, which is bad enough for
your health) is basically a synthetic substance that your body simply
can't use in any way. "Of
the three sweeteners, sucralose has been touted as the most natural,
but that claim 'has
more to do with clever marketing than with chemistry.'
. . . Although
sucralose is made from sugar, its chemical structure is significantly
different: A molecule of the artificial sweetener has three chlorine
atoms, whereas sugar has three pairs of oxygen and hydrogen atoms. .
. . Sucralose . . . slips through undigested, as does saccharin—a
compound of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms. 'The
body doesn't know what to make of it, so it doesn't make anything'"
upshot is that sucralose can still increase glucose and insulin
levels (which is obviously bad news for diabetics) and can adversely
affect gut health. Also, the evidence is pretty clear that cooking
with sucralose produces harmful substances called chloropropanols,
which can increase the risk of cancer.
in short, avoid sucralose.
to Mom and Common Sense
then, you want to live a longer, healthier life, heed what your
mother told you and what common sense tells you. Eat those
dark-colored fruits and vegetables at every meal, and don't put bad
stuff into your body, particularly Aspartame and sucralose.
Add to that sensible exercise (but steer clear of the widespread fitness and weight loss myths), and you should be good to go. And, finally, take care of your feet, as Lieutenant Dan so sagely advised us.