Proactive Approach to Health

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Having a proactive approach to health requires understanding the effects caused by our interaction with the World around us. This goes from the simple effects of diet and what we put in our mouth, up to more complicated effects of stress and genetic considerations. This involves being able to get passed the marketing used by companies to sell products and goods and be able to make better risk/reward decisions so we don't let our decisions compromise longer term health and vitality. It also involves being able to have a basic understanding across several different disciplines. A good example of this is anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are related to the science of physics, chemistry, and biology. The term 'anti-oxidant' has been used and abused by marketing departments as a way to sell products. But what are anti-oxidants really and why do they matter? Even though the science is cross disciplinary you don't have to be a physics or biology or chemistry professor to get the gist.

Microscopic unstable electrons can cause major large scale havoc. This is the same havoc that creates electricity, lightening, atomic bombs and will rust a car. It is also potential havoc inside of our bodies based on the process of oxidation. Oxidation creates 'free radicals' which is just a fancy term for unstable electrons. Ironically these free radicals which can do major damage are caused just by the process of breathing oxygen. They are also caused by many outside environmental factors as well such as air pollution, exposure to toxins and many types of 'unhealthy' foods we eat.
To manage free radicals our body has developed ways through our immune system to eliminate them to help protect our cells (and eventual organs) from damage.

Plants also have the same problem with oxidation and to protect themselves developed chemical compounds through evolution to neutralize free radical exposure and damage. These chemical compounds are commonly known as 'anti-oxidants'. Fortunately for us if we consume them we can get some of the benefit. One of the most common anti-oxidants is ascorbic acid or also known by the more familiar, household name - Vitamin C.

Based on this it would make sense for us to leverage this to our advantage as much as possible. Our challenge is marketing companies' see the potential in this as well as a way to sell everything from candy to cosmetics.

Having a proactive approach to leveraging anti-oxidants is quite simple. Eat as much foods as possible with the highest anti-oxidant content in their most natural state. The more it is tampered with the less value it will be in terms of anti-oxidant value. We often hear and read on the packages about how it is 'ok to eat dark chocolate' because it has anti-oxidants. In truth the cocoa bean that grows in the cocoa pod has anti-oxidants as almost all seeds do. But that it is a long way from the cocoa seed growing in the amazon to the final processed, sugar-laced product that rolls off of a factory lines by the thousands every day. This is marketing at its finest but irresponsible. If you are reading about a product having 'anti-oxidants' but it comes packaged in a plastic wrap you should be weary. The only way to ensure a proactive anti-oxidant strategy is to get it from the source. Some of the best sources are blueberries, artichoke hearts, blackberries and kidney beans!

Creating a proactive health strategy requires being able to separate fact from fiction. Disease prevention often comes from just having that additional level of understanding to be able to make better decisions. Often it is also common sense. So key considerations for proactive health:

1) Do not let your children drink soft drinks and closely monitor their sugar intake. High sugar exposure leads to permanent cellular damage over time, causing many of the main stream diseases we face today such as Type-2 diabetes, obesity and cancers. If a child starts drinking soft drinks and having excessive amounts of processed sugar at age 5 then by the time they reach puberty they have already had over a decade of sugar abuse!
2) Eat foods in their natural state that are high in anti-oxidants. Don't buy a product because it claims to have high anti-oxidants in it. In fact, don't buy a product to eat based on any of the following:
a. Having anti-oxidants. It is shown that much of the anti-oxidant capability is lost during processing.
b. Having probiotics. This is another new marketing term that you should ignore. If you are eating a balanced diet of natural foods you are getting all you need of probiotics. The process of having the right amount of bacteria in your digestive system has been evolving over millions of years and your body manages this for you as long as you eat healthy.
c. Having fortified vitamins and minerals. For minerals fortified foods have helped cut down on many diseases caused by malnourishment. Vitamins are a bit of a different matter. Adding ascorbic acid to a product just to say it has Vitamin C is not the same as getting the vitamin from an actual fruit or vegetable. It isn't about how much Vitamin C something contains, it is about how much your body absorbs. Absorption is the key to getting the most from vitamins and studies show that absorption rates are impaired when consuming processed foods versus foods in their natural state.


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