Are Antioxidants Just A Scam?

In the 1990s, scientists discovered that cell damage from free radicals (called oxidation) increased the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and many other conditions. Some vitamins are able to neutralize free radicals and slow down oxidation. They’re called antioxidants. Lately, some scientists have been saying that this whole antioxidant thing is just a myth. What’s the truth?

Are Vitamins and Antioxidants a Waste of Money?

It’s true that antioxidants aren’t a magic bullet to cure all your problems. They can help, but you have to know how to use them:

  1. You need the right amount of antioxidants, no more and no less: Some supplements give you crazy amounts of antioxidants, like 5,000 times your daily needs. This is a waste, because your body doesn’t need that much. In fact, too much of certain vitamins (vitamin A, for example) can hurt instead of help.
  2. Antioxidants are more effective when you’re running low: If you’re already getting plenty of vitamin C from the fruits and veggies you eat, you’re not going to see much difference by taking vitamin C supplements. Antioxidants are more helpful for people who aren’t getting enough nutrients, like people who are too busy to cook every day.
  3. Your body needs help absorbing antioxidants: Some vitamin supplements appear in forms that your body can’t process. That’s like buying a box of healthy cereal but not being able to eat it because you can’t get the packaging open. For example, high-quality turmeric supplements need extra ingredients (such as black pepper extract) to help your body increase vitamin absorption naturally.

Try to get most of your antioxidants from fresh fruit and veggies. These sources are great because they provide many different antioxidants that support and reinforce each other. If you know you’re not getting enough fresh fruit, focus on supplements that also contain lots of complimentary antioxidants, such as turmeric, ginger and moringa.

Are the Articles Saying Antioxidants Are a Scam Wrong?

What about those scientists claiming antioxidants are a myth? Many of these articles are wrong or misleading:

  • Drug companies don’t pay for honest research into natural foods: Pharmaceutical companies obviously don’t want you taking cheaper antioxidants when they can charge you thousands of dollars for drugs. Who are the real scam artists?
  • Some scientists twist things: Obviously, if you study the effects of vitamin C on healthy people, you’re not going to see much difference. The whole point is to see if antioxidants can make a difference for people who aren’t getting enough vitamins normally.
  • Lab studies are misleading: Many studies cited as proof that antioxidants are a myth use data from test tubes (cells in a jar), not actual human beings. I can’t even tell you how misleading that is.
  • Most studies are small and short: You obviously can’t see the benefits of antioxidants for protecting the heart, brain, joints and kidneys in a one-week study. How about checking the effects after a few months, instead?

To be honest, most of these articles make me laugh. One claimed that vitamin C doesn’t help your body at all. Except I’ve seen the results myself EVERY TIME I’VE EVER BEEN SICK. I can say the same thing about garlic, ginger, turmeric, moringa and chicken soup. The bottom line? Listen to your body, not some scientist who’s probably getting his paycheck from a drug company that wants to sell you insulin for $300.

My Love Letter to Cranberries (Plus Recipes!)

When it comes to berries, strawberries and blueberries get all the love. Cranberries are like that eccentric cousin who only visits once a year. It's a shame because these vibrant berries have some phenomenal health benefits.

The Underappreciated Superfruit

At first glance, cranberries don’t look like a superfood. They’re mainly fiber, water and sugar. They have decent vitamin C, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Then, you look at the list of antioxidants in cranberries and your mind is blown away. Antioxidants are special substances that protect your cells, the building blocks for every part of your body: skin, heart, bones, eyes, nerves and more.

Few foods have as many different antioxidants as these bright red bombshells:

  • Peonidin
  • Ursolic acid
  • Quercetin
  • Myricetin
  • A-type proanthocyanidins

Some of these nutrients are only found in cranberries. Others are more abundant in cranberries than in other foods.

Delicious Health Benefits

Even if you never remember the scientific names of cranberry antioxidants, you’ll remember the amazing things they do.

Fighting Inflammation

Cranberries and cranberry juice contain potent antioxidants for fighting chronic inflammation. Other dark fruits, such as grapes, have these same anti-inflammatory compounds, but cranberries blow their numbers out of the water. Take that, blueberries.

By the way, the idea that only seniors have to worry about inflammation is a myth. Nearly 20% of middle-aged Americans have diabetes, and many others have arthritis, joint pain or heart problems. All in all, over half of Americans have some type of chronic inflammation.

Protecting Urinary Health

If you have urinary tract infections from time to time, give cranberries a try. Do you remember those A-type proanthocyanidins mentioned earlier?

It turns out that they’re really good at blocking the bacteria responsible for many UTIs. They make it harder for microbes to stick to your urinary tract or bladder.

Cranberry juice isn’t going to treat an infection, but it can significantly reduce your risk of getting a UTI. For recurring UTIs, cranberries were nearly as effective as medication, and they come without harsh side effects.

Supporting a Healthy Gut

Those same A-type whatchamacallits are also good for your digestive health. By making it harder for harmful microbes to take over your gut, cranberry antioxidants support a healthy digestive tract filled with good bacteria.

This may provide many benefits, from smoother bowel movements to improved mood. Some scientists think that cranberry juice can lower your risk of stomach cancer, colon cancer and ulcers. Take this with a grain of salt, though.

Tart and Sweet Treats

One way to enjoy cranberries in your diet is to drink cranberry juice, preferably one without added sugars. What if you're not exactly addicted to the dry flavor of cran? Some people dilute it in sparkling water for a refreshing drink that’s not too tart.

Add the power of cran to your favorite smoothies. Mix half a banana with 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries. Add 1/4 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 cup of your choice of berries. This refreshing breakfast smoothie gives you fiber and energy for the day.

Dried cranberries can supercharge “boring” health foods. Why eat plain oatmeal when you can spice it up with little red bundles of pure joy? Unsweetened cran raisins make tasty granola and trail mix to conquer your snack cravings.