Phillip Minton M.D.

Understanding Dietary Antioxidants

In anti-aging, chocolate, prevention diet on November 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Antioxidants in our diet are the components of foods that assist our body to control the oxidation of food into energy, and to quench or destroy unwanted harmful byproducts of energy metabolism. Food, after digestion, travels through the bloodstream and into the cells. Each cell contains tiny little energy producing factories called mitochondria. These little power plants convert portions of our food into energy for the cell to use.

Just as a real power plant, for example one burning coal, produces energy, so do the mitochondria. And just as a coal-burning power plant sends energy in the form of electricity out to where it is needed, so do the mitochondria release energy packets into the cell.

There is another commonality between the microscopic power plant and the industrial one. It is pollution. Coal burning power stations release unused excess energy in the form of heat into a nearby source of cool water, and emit carbon dioxide and smoke. The end result of cellular energy production is carbon dioxide which we exhale with each breath, excess unused energy, and debris that could be thought of as analogous to the smoke emitted from smoke stacks.
The excess energy an industrial power plant produces must be released from the plant and into cool water to quench the energy, or the excess heat could buildup and burn down the power plant. Just as coal-burning industrial power stations release excess energy produced as heat into an adjacent river or stream, our mitochondria have leftover energy particles that are known as “oxidative free radicals” which must be dealt with lest they cause harm.

Oxidative free radicals. These little guys are packed with energy. This excess energy can cause damage to portions of our cells if not controlled. One of the main ways our cells are protected from these byproducts of energy production is via the actions of dietary antioxidants. Luckily for us, some of our foods are rich in the very thing needed to cleanup, quench and control these harmful byproducts of energy production known as oxidative free radicals.
Dietary anti-oxidants interact with the free radicals and quench their excess energy, so they cannot harm us. It is similar to throwing water on a small fire. The fire is quenched by the water. As each year passes, science discovers more and more evidence of the importance of this process. It protects us from many degenerative diseases. It also blunts the aging process itself.

What is one of nature’s most powerful foods as far as containing anti-oxidants? Chocolate. That’s right, the cocoa solids from which all chocolate is derived is loaded with dietary anti-oxidants. Aren’t we fortunate?!

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