London: Health officials are advising that all vulnerable people in the UK such as the over-65s, asthma and diabetes sufferers and those with serious heart or lung conditions should ensure they get the standard flu vaccine from their GP to help protect them from the killer Avian bird flu.
Whilst a flu jab is an advisable preventative measure there is a lot more we can do to protect and boost our bodys immune systems. For example, by eating superfoods and taking supplements that contain powerful antioxidants, substances that can protect our body from infections. These supernutrients not only have the potential to help you be healthier and look younger for longer but will give you the best possible chance of fighting off viral infections such as colds and flu this winter.
In Japan, for example, doctors are combating heart disease by prescribing CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a fat-soluble vitamin-like substance produced by our own bodies. This substance is an essential component of the mitochondria, the energy producing unit of our cells, where it helps produce the bodys fuel. The role of CoQ10 is similar to that of the sparkplug in a car engine.
Low levels of CoQ10 have been linked to several diseases, in particular congestive heart failure. Ageing humans have been found to have 57% less on average compared to young adults. But there is increasing evidence that it can help prevent and even reverse several diseases of ageing heart failure, gum disease, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and chronic fatigue. In healthy individuals its effectiveness can be experienced in the gym where it can assist in cardio-vascular endurance.
Antioxidants help the body defend itself against attack from free radicals, the unstable molecular structures, caused by pollution, stress, smoking and drinking to excess, that damage cells and which scientists believe are the trigger for cell mutations that cause cancer and other ageing diseases.
Nutritionist Sally Beare, author of The Live-Longer Diet (www.piatkus.co.uk) says: In order to stave off degenerative diseases and enjoy optimum health, we have to get the full range of nutrients. These include at lest seven to twenty minerals, thirteen vitamins, eleven essential amino acids and two essential fatty acids (essential meaning that they are essential for health and cannot be made by the body). At the absolute minimum, we should eat at least five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and preferably ten. Yet most Western diets include far less than this, and the UK Food Standards Agency found that only 36 per cent of people in the UK are even aware of the recommendation.
Ideally, antioxidants should be consumed as part of a well-balanced diet, but since many processed foods are deficient, dietary supplements should be considered. Anyone who is pregnant or taking pharmaceutical drugs for a serious illness should consult their doctor before taking supplements as some can interact with medication.
Included in the list of supernutrients are foods that release energy slowly into the blood stream, those with a low Glycemic Index, that keep energy levels constant and prevent tiredness and the onset of diabetes. Oats are one of the best sources and it also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. Other superfoods to include in your diet are eggs, one of the best sources of protein; green tea to protect against heart disease and cancer; nuts such as brazils that contain selenium which protects against cancer and improves thyroid function and walnuts for a healthy heart and olive oil and soya to reduce cholesterol.
Eating oily fish regularly helps protect the brain and has the added bonus of giving us beautiful skin. Mackerel, herrings, tuna, salmon, sardines and anchovies all contain omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) as do flax seeds (linseed) and flaxseed oil.
New York dermatologist, Dr Nicholas Perricone (www.www.nvperriconemd.co.uk) describes DMAE, a substance found in abundance in wild Alaskan salmon, as “the magic bullet” for skin. In his book, The Perricone Promise, he explains how you can look 10 years younger in 28 days by eating supernutrients, including salmon and DMAE and have a healthier brain and slimmer body at the same time. DMAE is also a building-block of the brain neuro-transmitter acetylcholine which declines with age and causes a deterioration in muscle-tone as well as brain function leading to Alzheimers.
He says: Looking good and having a positive body image is not vanity; its your road to a long, healthy and happy life.
The most important dietary antioxidants are found in the more colourful varieties of fruits and vegetables such as:
Red/Orange: Tomatoes, strawberries, oranges, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, red and orange peppers, and salmon are rich in vitamins A, C and E.
Green: Cabbage, spinach, avocado, kiwi fruit and peas are rich in vitamin A.
Yelow: Lemons, melons, mangoes, yellow peppers and grapefruit are all rich sources of Vitamins A and C.
Purple: Blueberries, blackcurrants, red cabbage and beetroot are excellent sources of vitamins A, C and E.
White: Garlic, onions, cauliflower and walnuts are rich in vitamins A, C and E.
The amount of antioxidants they contain is calculated by a scale known as oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC). For more information read The Oracle Diet by Michael van Straten (Kyle Cathie)
TOP FOODS ON THE ORAC ANTIOXIDANT CAPACITY SCALE
ORAC units per 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces)
Fruits ORAC Units Vegetables ORAC Units
Prunes 5,770 Garlic 1,939
Raisins 2,830 Kale 1,770
Blueberries 2,400 Spinach 1,260
Blackberries 2,036 Brussels sprouts 980
Cranberries 1,750 Alfafa sprouts 930
Strawberries 1,540 Brocolli 890
Raspberries 1,220 Beetroot 710
Red grapes 739 Onion 450
Kiwi fruit 602 Red bell peppers
Pink grapefruit 483 Eggplant 400
These are the main antioxidant supplements:
Alpha-Lipoic Acid taken in combination with acetyl-L-carnitine, an amino acid that assists the transport of fat into the mitachondria of the cell. It is found in spinach, liver brewer’s yeast, beef and potatoes.
Amino Acids the 23 amino acids are the building blocks of the body and made up of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen that make proteins to form muscles, hormones, enzymes, skin, hair, organs and bones. The most important are : L-Arginine – helps reduce angina, high blood pressure and glaucoma and increases lean muscle. Found in oats, grains, fish, red meat, Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts and gelatine. Carnitine – detoxing and fat burning and reduces cellulite. Also found in yeast, dairy products, liver and red meat. Acetyl-L-carnitine – aids brain function and has also been shown to reverse damage to brain cells brought about by poor nutrition and even alcohol abuse. Tests on Alzheimer’s patients have shown it can improve memory function in combination with with phosphatidyl serine, alpha lipoic acid and Gamma Lineolic Acid. Cysteine -breaks down toxins in the liver and also helpful to cancer patients. In laboratory tests it has been shown to extend the life of some animals. Found in eggs, wheatflour, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and oats. L-Glutamine – assists the repair of the stomach lining damaged by excessive alcohol and also helps counter cravings for alcohol. It is found in cabbage, barley and potatoes. Glutathione -helpful in rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer and Parkinson’s Disease often have low levels of this amino acid. It is most effective when taken with alpha lipoic acid and found in fish, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables. Glycine – helpful for gout sufferers and reduces the symptoms of schizophrenia and osteoarthritis. It is found in sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, buckwheat and gelatine. Serine – works on the brain memory neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine to aid memory. Found in almonds, walnuts, gelatine and eggs.
Beta-carotene – found in carrots and other highly coloured vegetables and fruits. An antioxident that is thought to help fight cancer.
Bioflavinoids – a chemical found in fruits and vegetables: apricots, plums, blackberries, strawberries, green tea, rosehips, green peppers, green beans, broccoli, red cabbage, grapes, cherries, rhubarb, red wine, lemons,oranges. Quercetin, the most active of the citrus bioflavonoids has anti-inflammatory properties and helps allergic reactions. Also beneficial in diabetes as it helps prevent damage to blood vessels by excess sugar in the body. Grapes, particularly grapeseeds and red wine are a good source of the bioflavonoids proanthocyanidins
CoEnzyme Q10 – a fat-soluble vitamin-like substance present in every cell of the body. It also occurs naturally in a number of foods, including organ meats, soy oil, sardines,
DMAE or dimethylaminoethanol (chemical name deanol) – a compound found in high levels in oily fish such as anchovies, sardines and salmon. It is also produced in small amounts by the human brain. It is sold as a food supplement to boost brain function and is thought to be helpful in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Doctors are also looking at its role in treating poor memory and Alzheimers Disease, as well as some movement disorders. Many nutritionally oriented physicians prescribe DMAE along with another memory enhancer, the dietary supplement phosphatidylcholine.
Evening Primrose oil and fish oils: Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), an amega-3 oil, and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), an amega-6 oil are naturally occuring fats with ani-inflammatory effects. It is important to pick a fish oil that has been purified and contains a high dose of Eicosapentaenoic acid(EPA). Oils made from fish rather than livers are preferable because of the levels of toxins.
Glucosamine – a natural substance in the body vital to the health of joints and cartilage and is often sold in supplements with Chondroitin.
Proanthocyanidins(a class of plant flavonoids) – found in grapes, grape seeds and red wine and help to prevent hardening of the arteries.
Vitamins and Minerals – these work together to aid a large number of biological processes. As well as being found in our food they can be taken as a multi-supplement and should include A, the Bs B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B8 (biotin), B9 (flate, folacin, folic acid), B12 (cyanocobalamin), C (Absorbic Acid), D (Calciferol), E (Tochopherol) and K (Phylloquinone) and the minerals calcium, chromium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc.