The Case for Dietary Antioxidants
For most people the term oxygen has pleasant connotations. From the healing air in a forest to the serenity gained from deep breathing, oxygen is very soothing. As is typical in nature, however, there are positive and negative aspects of oxygen. Although oxygen is essential for metabolism, it is a very reactive compound. Sometimes oxygen will combine with the complex molecules of metabolism to make reactive intermediate compounds which can be dangerous.
An antioxidant is capable of joining with a free radical and rendering it harmless. One can visualize a free radical as a spilled liquid and the antioxidant as the sponge. When antioxidants are present, the cell can proceed with its business without damage. Certain natural foods and herbs are the source of most antioxidants, which is why diet is so important in maintaining a healthy and strong body and a cancer-preventive lifestyle. Besides quitting or avoiding smoking, modifying your diet is the single most important factor in cancer avoidance. Eating foods rich in antioxidants such as carotenoids, phycocyanin, superoxide dismutase and vitamins C and E is another great way to help prevent cancer.
Carotenoids are vitally important antioxidants. Numerous studies have indicated that people whose diets contain a lot of foods rich in carotenoids lower their risk of developing various types of cancer.
Natural vs. synthetic:
A good illustration of the importance of taking natural vitamins from food can be made with beta-carotene, one of the carotenoids present in Spirulina in large quantities. There are many synthetic beta-carotene supplements on the market. In fact, even some that claim to be "natural" are synthetic. Nature makes beta-carotene in two shapes, called cis and trans, while synthetic is primarily only one shape (trans).
Cis and trans forms of beta-carotene are two different compounds, different chemically, and different physically. They behave differently when crystallizing
and when dissolving. There is also a difference when they are absorbed in the intestine for digestion. In fact, a study showed that chickens and rats Another advantage of natural beta-carotene is that it contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives, whereas synthetic beta-carotene contains preservatives and trace residues of chemicals used in the refining process.
There are between 400 and 600 carotenoids about which we know very little: Almost all the research so far has concentrated on beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin and most recently astaxanthin. The full range of carotenoids is only found in food, which is why it is important to include carotenoid-rich foods in our diet.
It is quite possible that the other carotenoids are just as valuable for our health as beta-carotene. Carotenoids are used and stored in several parts of the
body, including the adrenal glands, the reproductive system, the pancreas and spleen, the skin, and the retina. Depletion of these stores results in disturbances
in the body despite adequate levels of beta-carotene in one’s diet.
Sources of Natural Beta-carotene
There are many food sources of beta-carotene. Spinach and kale and other dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, squash, papayas, cantaloupes, and other yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources. Regrettably, however, most people get only 25-30% of the daily dietary carotenoid intake recommended in a cancer-preventive diet; and many people are unwilling to make radical dietary changes.
The easy way to eat your daily dose of food-based beta-carotene is to take Spirulina, the richest whole food source of beta-carotene. Unlike other betacarotene supplements, Spirulina is a whole food with its beta-carotene in a naturally chelated food matrix. And Spirulina is not only rich in beta-carotene, it contains other very important carotenoids like zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin as well as lesser known carotenoids such as myxoxanthophyll and echinenone.