I’ve been sitting here for 15 minutes, hands hovering above the keyboard. Does it ever happen to you to have to explain something that’s complicated yet ordinary, and you don’t even know how to begin? My mind goes off the rails when it comes to simple things; it doesn’t seem to go for the simple solution. Rather, it looks for the complicated and impossible. 16 minutes. Maybe… just maybe there’s hope. Let’s see.
What would be your favourite superpower? I would like to be able to shape energy. To focus it in my palms and look at its unblemished harmony. Such a superpower would allow a new world to emerge and turn me into a creator. I could closely watch life-giving processes and each stage of creation. I would be an omniscient traveller getting lost among the complex reactions that exist in all life. I would enter the world of plants and be amazed by the exchanges of electrons between molecules, seeing how they harvest the sun’s energy and turn it into life.
The dance of the electrons would follow the trajectory pre-established by the explosion caused by the energy transfer. This process best illustrates the beauty of nature. Some particles, drunk with the euphoria of the dance, would wander off their path and become creatures of destruction. They could take down everything in a moment, through a single touch. Almost spiritually, the wisdom of nature takes control, raising defensive shields against rogue electrons, absorbing their essence. And then, in a wink, it’s back to normal.
This is how my very complicated mind tries to explain photosynthesis. The important part: those “shields” that plants raise against free radicals – heavily reactive elements. They are made out of antioxidants that intercept and evacuate rogue electrons. Usually coloured, antioxidants are responsible for the vibrant palette of fruits and vegetables. These chemicals are to be found almost exclusively in plants – animal origin foodstuffs include antioxidants only if the animal had previously stored them in tissues, in small quantities.
By simple exposure to the sun, to some industrial pollutants and due to the imbalance in our use of nutritional substances, we generate small hordes of “destructive creatures”. I didn’t exaggerate by saying they can destroy everything in their path. The ageing process happens when these free radicals make our tissues become rigid, and our bodies go stiff and “squeaky”. It’s just a step from here to medical issues such as cataract, arteriosclerosis, cancer, emphysema, arthritis and many other diseases specific to old age.
Although human bodies are one of the planet’s most complex systems, we don’t naturally raise shields against free radicals. There’s some good news, as well: antioxidants from plants act just as well in our bodies as they do in plants!
There are many studies showing the benefits of antioxidants on human health. Like I mentioned above, they slow the ageing process, keeping us beautiful for longer. They protect us, boosting the immune system, reducing the risk of cancer, coronary diseases, arterial hypertension and strokes.
The million-dollar question many people face is if a pill such as Vitamin C or beta-carotene could benefit our health. My answer is a definitive NO! Our health has nothing to do with nutrients ingested on their own, and everything to do with eating whole foods that include those nutrients. These are foodstuffs of vegetal origin. Skilled researchers have already proven that nutritional supplements don’t help us but do help line the pockets of big pharmaceutical companies. Why go to a chemically-made pill when nature is so giving with its bounty?
In a single bowl of spinach there are lots of fibres, antioxidants and a laaaaarge number of nutrients that orchestrate a symphony of pure health. They work together inside our bodies for good effect. My advice, from the heart, is to eat as many fruits, vegetables and whole cereals, while staying away from pill boxes!