A healthy diet with balance of antioxidants vital

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen. 08 October 2023, 11:00AM

In our previous column, we talked in detail about the condition of ‘chronic inflammation’ (also called oxidative stress) that is commonly present in persons leading an unhealthy lifestyle. If left unchecked, it eventually leads to disease, particularly in the form of non-communicable diseases (NCD), such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and diseases of the brain, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. 

We explained that this chronic inflammation is caused by an imbalance between the excessive production of free radicals (as a result of the unhealthy lifestyle) and the lack of sufficient antioxidants, which are molecules that are in part produced by the body but mostly brought into the body through the consumption of healthy plant-based foodstuffs. 

The reader must realise by now that it is an urgent matter to control oxidative stress. When your house is on fire, you don’t wait a second to try and control the blaze. The remedy is simple: it helps your body maintain a balance between these free radicals and the antioxidants that neutralise them. 

We gave a hint on how to achieve this: By adopting a healthy lifestyle: adopting the whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet that METI promotes staying away from smoking, minimising alcohol intake, exercising regularly, having a good night’s sleep and having warm and stable personal relations. Some might try to ‘buck the system’, by maintaining an unhealthy diet based on high-fat, animal products but attempting somehow to increase the amount of antioxidants in their diet. 

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the pioneers of promoting the WFPB diet for the control and reversal of heart disease has a stern warning for such people: ‘When your house is on fire, you don’t spray it with gasoline!’ Nothing less than a radical shift to a healthier lifestyle will suffice to reverse this chronic inflammation and prevent those various disease conditions now so common among our people. 

So, let’s hope that reason prevails and you and your family decide to adopt the WFPB diet. To speed up your recovery, you will try to have a balanced healthy diet containing an abundance of antioxidants. After eating a meal, the body in digesting the food enters a ‘pro-oxidant state’ meaning that after each meal, free radicals are produced as our body assimilates the food. That must be counterbalanced by antioxidants, meaning that each and every meal should contain high-antioxidant food. 

Over the past many columns, we have highlighted the many phytochemicals (which are antioxidants) that should be regularly consumed and that are naturally found in plant foods.  Let us give the reader a practical guide of foods commonly found in Samoa and affordable to everyone, that have high antioxidant levels and ideally should be consumed several times a week, if not daily.

Among the vegetables: are ‘dark leafy greens’ such as taro leaves (poka), edible hibiscus (Laupele), watercress, Chinese cabbage; carrots and tomatoes. Among the root crops: are sweet potatoes (ideally the orange or purple fleshed ones). Among the fruits: are papaya, oranges, apples, dried prunes and raisins. (A word of caution: because they are dried, they are high in calories and should be eaten in moderation: about 4 prunes and a small fistful of raisins a day). Among the legumes: are beans and chickpeas. Among the beverages: Cocoa drink made from sun-dried beans (but not roasted). 

Finally, of all the foods, spices and herbs have the highest amounts of antioxidants. So, in preparing your stews or soups, be generous with onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, ground flax seeds and explore the world of spices, like curry, cinnamon, oregano, allspice, cloves, basil and more. It is not surprising that people in Southern India, who consume highly spiced foods have the lowest incidence of intestinal cancers. Make delicious dishes by spicing your food for a healthy long life! Make up your mind and make the change!

We invite you to visit METI’s Healthy Living Clinic at House No. 51 at Motootua (across from the Kokobanana Restaurant) to become further acquainted with METI’s whole food plant-based diet and Lifestyle Change programs. Or call us at 30550. Learning how to follow these Programs might be your ‘game changer’!  

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen. 08 October 2023, 11:00AM
Samoa Observer

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