Facts in this article have been checked by Jodi O'Neil, Nutritional Education Trainer (NET), as certified by the Nutritional Education Institute, which was founded by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Any information is either empirically-based or has demonstrated clinical significance.
An article put out by The Guardian last month downplayed the health benefits of antioxidants— specifically, as found in blueberries—and having read it, the authors at Healthy Food Now felt responsible to respond: to clarify the distinction between antioxidants included in supplements and those found in natural forms through the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods.
The truth is that many natural and healthy foods, and not just blueberries, are rich in antioxidants, as well as a host of other compounds collectively known as phytochemicals, which fight disease and maintain a healthy metabolism. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, colorful vegetables and fruits, mushrooms, onions, legumes, seeds and nuts and whole grains are all foods rich in phytochemicals.
Take a quick look at the kinds of breakfasts people eat everyday: the difference between a whole food—with real health benefits—and the processed, refined products filling up plenty of pantries across America becomes readily apparent. Kelloggs' Blueberry Pop-Tarts or Yoplait Mixed Berry GoGurt are not the same as blueberries the fruit (put them on top of a bowl of steel cut oats, sprinkle some raw crushed walnuts or pistachios, and you have yourself a meal!), neither is the frozen veggie patty and a bottled juice when compared to the homemade bean burger and a green smoothie. One is processed; the other is not.
The article from The Guardian is misleading in that it does not make the distinction between antioxidants in natural foods versus antioxidants in the form of added supplements—or it is at least implied that they are the same:
“Antioxidants do not prolong our lives nor prevent cancer,” says the article’s author, “despite what we want to believe. As Professor [James] Watson remarked in his paper, "Blueberries best be eaten because they taste good, not because their consumption will lead to less cancer."”
It is, in fact, well documented that phytochemicals found in natural, unprocessed foods protect DNA from damage, help remove toxins from the body, and repair damaged cells. Along with fiber, vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals slow the aging process and lower the risks of many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.
Ultimately, good health cannot be taken as a pill, fortified in a biscuit or bottled up, claiming “X” amount of vitamins and minerals and “Y” servings of fruits and vegetables. It is silly—or something out of science fiction—to expect the same quantity and variety of nutrients from what is synthesized and factory-produced as from what we find in nature. So have a salad, eat your oatmeal, and sprinkle some fresh fruit on top—and if it happens to be blueberries, enjoy them, because they taste good and they’re good for you.