Guard the Temple

Protecting Against “Free Radicals”

“Free Radicals” is a term that sounds like Muslim terrorists being let out of prison. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Perhaps the best way to describe a “free radical” is to explain the difference between carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). As you probably know carbon dioxide is what you breathe out and is relatively harmless in your body. That’s because the O2 has a balance of electrons.

When an atom has an imbalance of electrons it attacks a molecule in some organ in the body to take an electron from it. This makes that molecule unstable and seeking an electron from another organ and the chain continues.

For the most part oxygen is our friend – we need it to breathe and to explode the energy for the muscles. But it also causes rust. If you leave a cut apple exposed to the air, it will turn brown and lose some vitamin and nutrient content. As you breathe oxygen 02 into your lungs it is stable. But if you smoke you will create the free radical of one oxygen atom (O) and it will attack parts of your body.

Health scientists are beginning to believe that not only aging but most of our diseases come from our free radical damage to organs and tissues. The more free radicals you have in your system the faster you age and the more likely you are to encounter serious health problems.

Smoking, exposure to dangerous chemicals, air pollution, pesticides, eating high sugar and fried foods will increase the free radicals immensely. We know we cannot get out of this life alive. But, we can slow down the rate at which we age and can avoid the more severe health problems. Everyone has free radicals in their body. It is impossible to avoid them completely. However, God has provided help for our health in the foods He has created. The help we call “antioxidants.”

ANTIOXIDANT is the name given to various nutrients that give the free radical an extra electron to stabilize it so it won’t do damage to tissues. The antioxidant itself is so stable that giving the extra atom or electron does not destabilize it.

I first heard about “antioxidants” some 40 years ago. The two main ones were vitamins C and E. These were considered the most abundant in the body. They are abundant in fresh (and I emphasize that word) fruits and vegetables. The sooner these fruits and vegetables are eaten after their picking or harvesting, the more antioxidant levels they contain.

Today, scientists are discovering antioxidants in such foods as grape seeds, plain unsweetened cocoa, soy sauce (the darker the better). You probably already heard of red wine, red grape juice, wheat germ oil as well as pomegranate fruit and juices. The various berries are a great source of antioxidants – blue berries, black berries, etc.

Various vegetables contain antioxidants. Because of this nutritionists recommend 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day! Wow, you say? Well, if you eat 2 to 3 pieces of fruit a day and salads, vegetables with your meals; it is not that difficult to get 8 servings per day.

Taking in antioxidants helps protect your body and slow down the aging process (it can’t be stopped entirely). Consuming fresh foods will contribute to your good health. Junk foods, sodas, fried foods, stale foods, foods with colorings, preservatives and other chemicals increase the free radicals in your body. Where there are free radicals, there is also inflammation in the body. The more inflammation the more likely you are to age faster and become ill.

There are blood tests for inflammation such as the C Reactive Protein (CRP) test. This test will tell the level of disease inflammation in the body. And doctors explain that if there is inflammation in one part of the body there is inflammation in all parts of the body.

If your blood test shows a high level of CRP, then you definitely want to be taking more antioxidants in your diet. Two of the best known antioxidants are what are called Vitamin C and Vitamin E. However, two major studies – one over a 7 year period – involved 10,000 men and woman 55 and older who had heart disease or diabetes. This HOPE (Heart Outcome Prevention Evaluation) study found that a Vitamin E (400 IU) supplements taken per day did not reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and resulted in 13 percent higher risk of heart failure!

What about Vitamin E in health women? The Women’s Health Study followed 40,000 health women aged 45 and older for 10 years. Some of the women took 600 IU of Vitamin E and some took a placebo. They study found no differences between the groups in heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular events. However, women over the age of 65 who took Vitamin E did have a 24 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack of stroke.

NOT ALL VITAMIN E IS CREATED EQUAL: It is interesting to note that the type of Vitamin E given to the people in these studies was synthetic alpha tocopherol. There are many tocopherols not just the alpha type. Even if the alpha tocopherol was derived from natural sources it would only be one of several tocopherols and one of several factors in a complete Vitamin E complex. The way to tell if the tocopherols are from natural sources or synthetic is this: The natural sources are labeled: “d-alpha tocopherol.” The synthetic is labeled, “dl-alpha tocopherol.” In your mind the “L” should stand for “Lousy.”

It has been discovered that a “Vitamin E” without the mineral selenium is not very effective. Selenium is or should be a part of the Vitamin E complex and many other factors also if the E was derived from whole food sources.

This leads me to believe that these studies involving synthetic, and in addition, only a partial amount of the Vitamin E and without any selenium, are severely faulty.

A good source of Vitamin E with many naturally occurring beneficial factors is cold pressed wheat germ oil. It is best when whole wheat is freshly ground and eaten within a day. If you buy it be sure it is encapsulated to protect it from air.

A similar thing can be said about “Vitamin C” that the FDA allows as ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is but one part of the Vitamin C complex. Ascorbic acid has also not been found to provide any heart protection in these studies.


A huge study of 84,129 women without heart disease or diabetes participating in the Nurses’ Health Study over a period of 14 years showed that having what they termed an “ideal lifestyle” involved 5 factors.

1) Do not smoke.
2) Have a Body Mass Index of less than 25 (normal weight range)
3) Consume an average of at least one-half drink of an alcoholic beverage per day.
4) Engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (including brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes each day.
5) Consume a diet (a) high in cereal fiber, marine omega-3 fatty acids, folate and polyunsaturated fat and (b) low in saturated and trans fat and glycemic (sugar) load (reflecting blood sugar levels).
At any age you can reduce your cholesterol (bad LDL) levels just by adding fish oil capsules (omega 3) and fiber and using red rice yeast. Exercise also helps reduce bad cholesterol levels and raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels.

Studies have been done about the Mediterranean Diet. The British Medical Journal (2005) found that those who follow the Mediterranean Diet more closely were more likely to live longer and have decreased death rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer—the two biggest killers in America.

There are 10 characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet. Here they are:

1. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. Emphasize whole natural foods over process foods.
3. Choose whole grains instead of refined and processed grains (also avoiding sugar and white potatoes)
4. Eat fish 1-2 times per week (especially fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel)
5. Add peas, beans and legumes
6. Choose oils rich in monosaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, grape seed oil)
7. Eat nuts and seeds for snacks
8. Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner (limit 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men)
9. Limit full-fat dairy products
10. Avoid high-saturated fat red meats

We have all heard about the need to eat “plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and to avoid processed and refined foods. But sadly this falls on too many deaf ears.

Naturally, it wouldn’t make sense that I care more about your health than you do. Obviously you care about your own and your family’s health more than I do. But, I write this by way of reminder to you to stir you up in the things you already know and motivate you to do them. A little effort in this regard will be a blessing to you and to your family.

If you do this you will be Guarding Your Temple and glorying God in the process!