Abundant Health in a Toxic World

I have recently written about food additives, genetically modified foods, and arsenic in rice. We live in a world where our oceans are contaminated with mercury and our fields are devoid of nutrients. It may seem that our future, and especially the future of our children, is bleak. I am here to tell you otherwise.

The first thing to recognize is that the human body is a miraculous organism. We are designed to survive and we are designed to thrive. Every second of every day, our cells are working to neutralize, transform, and eliminate toxicity. We have an army of enzymes distributed throughout the body, but concentrated in the liver, that recognizes and disposes of toxic compounds.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10990420When we eat residues of pesticide on an apple, for example, enzymes rapidly convert the chemical into a form that our bodies can excrete (1). The water in that apple supports elimination through the urine, and the fiber in that apple carries away toxins in the stool. Either way, those pesticides end up being flushed.

To assure you of the speed at which our bodies can detoxify, let me give you an example. A 2006 study of 23 elementary school children substituted most conventional foods with organic foods for 5 consecutive days. Pesticide metabolites in their urine decreased to undetectable levels immediately and remained that way until conventional diets were reintroduced (2).

The second thing to understand is that the foods we eat can help our body’s innate wisdom to combat toxic exposure from the environment.

Imagine a scale with toxic foods or chemicals on one side and purifying foods or chemicals on the other. The secret to health is in weighing that scale more heavily on the purifying side. Foods that will tip the scale in our favor are those with the highest amount of antioxidants and other nutrients. Let me give you some examples:

  • Red grapes and blueberries contain compounds that support immune function (3).
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain compounds that promote detoxification and block cancer (4).
  • Pistachios increase antioxidant levels in our blood (5) and walnuts have anti-inflammatory effects (6).
  • Eggs from hens raised on pasture contain significant levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, which are all poweful antioxidants (7).
  • Grass-fed beef is a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may be one of our most potent cancer fighters (8).
  • Garlic contains organosulfur compounds, phenols, and selenium. All of these have anti-cancer effects (9).
  • Turmeric (a spice used in curry) contains high amounts of curcumin, which has been shown to block inflammation and cancer (9).

In addition to the above list of foods, most plant foods contain beneficial compounds called flavanoids. Flavanoids are the most abundant form of antioxidants in the diet. They come in many shapes, sizes, and complicated names. But as a group, they help the body to ward off cancer, heart disease, inflammation, and toxicity (10). Foods rich in flavanoids include (but are not limited to):

  • http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10452839Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Wine


And lastly, we cannot overlook the importance of green leafy vegetables. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a family physician and nutrition expert, has developed a rating scale for foods. He calls it the ANDI scale, which stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. It ranks foods according to nutrients per calorie, including vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (health-promoting compounds that are present in plant foods). The scale goes from 0-1,000, with 1,000 being the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. As you can see, the foods highest on the scale are all green leafy vegetables:

Food

ANDI Score

Kale

1000

Collard Greens

1000

Mustard Greens

1000

Watercress

1000

Swiss Chard

895

Bok Choy

865

Spinach

707

Arugula

604

Romaine

510

 

Foods that I have listed in this article can be included every day for you and your family. It takes some creativity, some planning, and some willingness to try new things. I will most certainly make this the subject of future articles. But resources already abound to help you. Whole Foods Market, for example, has a wealth of nutrient-dense recipes online. If you have kids, http://www.dreamstime.com/-image18872051you can check out Weelicious.

I hope that you will take a moment to allow yourself to see the bounty of healing foods that nature has given to us. I also hope that you will consider the extraordinary ways in which our body knows how to use these foods to keep us well. When you understand this, the toxicity of our world becomes less daunting. We may live in a contaminated world with a contaminated food supply. But we have a choice. We are not doomed to have contaminated bodies. Weigh the scales in your favor and you will have a long abundant life.

 

References

1.      Committee on the Use of Third Party Toxicity Research with Human Research Participants Science, T., and Law Program, National Research Council. Intentional Human Dosing Studies for EPA Regulatory Purposes: Scientific and Ethical Issues (2004). In ed. The National Academies Press, p. 168-172.

2.      Lu, C., K. Toepel, R. Irish, R. A. Fenske, D. B. Barr, and R. Bravo. 2006. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect 114: 260-263.

3.      University, O. S. 2013. Red grapes, blueberries may enhance immune function.

4.      de Figueiredo, S. M., S. A. Filho, J. A. Nogueira-Machado, and R. B. Caligiorne. 2013. The anti-oxidant properties of isothiocyanates: a review. Recent Pat Endocr Metab Immune Drug Discov 7: 213-225.

5.      Kay, C. D., S. K. Gebauer, S. G. West, and P. M. Kris-Etherton. 2010. Pistachios increase serum antioxidants and lower serum oxidized-LDL in hypercholesterolemic adults. J Nutr 140: 1093-1098.

6.      Chiang, Y. L., E. Haddad, S. Rajaram, D. Shavlik, and J. Sabate. 2012. The effect of dietary walnuts compared to fatty fish on eicosanoids, cytokines, soluble endothelial adhesion molecules and lymphocyte subsets: a randomized, controlled crossover trial. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 87: 111-117.

7.      Long, C., and T. Alterman. 2007. Meet real free-range eggs. Mother Earth News 4:

8.      Robinson, J. 2002. Pasture Perfect. Mother Earth News

9.      Cretu, E., A. Trifan, A. Vasincu, and A. Miron. 2012. Plant-derived anticancer agents – curcumin in cancer prevention and treatment. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi 116: 1223-1229.

10.    Scalbert, A., and G. Williamson. 2000. Dietary intake and bioavailability of polyphenols. J Nutr 130: 2073S-2085S.

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