How Vegetables Protect Your Immune System

I always thought the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” was true and now I really think that is the case.  Two weeks ago at the Race for the Cure we had the opportunity to test the antioxidant levels of a lot of our community that stopped by our booth.  As you look at our sampling, you can see that the majority of those that we screened were in the 20,000 to 30,000 ranges, which is the orange color.  Then came the yellow and the red color. These three colors are associated with low antioxidants levels.  The blue and green colors, which are 40,000 and above are associated with good antioxidants levels that will protect you from disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer prevention and re-occurrence, and auto-immune diseases.  Dr. Oz scored 75, 000 when he was tested on his show.

Antioxidants are available to us in the foods we eat and drink and the supplements we take.  Your body absorbs these micronutrients, which are called carotenoids, from the fruits and vegetables and then uses them to protect you from the free radicals that we are associated with everyday.  We are exposed to free radicals in the form of air pollution, smoking, X-rays, industrial chemicals, certain drugs and the ozone.  These free radicals break down our line of defense and make us more susceptible to diseases.  These diseases then take hold in our body and make us sick.

One simple solution to protect your self from the daily effects of free radicals is 7-9 serving sizes of fruits and vegetables a day.  A serving size is about the size of your fist.  One medium sized apple would be considered one serving size.  You would like to utilize an array of these fruits and veggies and change them throughout the week.   The more colorful the fruit and veggie the higher the antioxidant level.   Carotenoids are phytonutrients and more than 600 of them have been identified and in the US diet we presently have 40 of them that we have daily access too.

A recent research article released in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute analyzed 8 prospective studies regarding circulating carotenoids, the micronutrients in fruits and veggies, and the risk of breast cancer.  The study suggests that women with higher levels of circulating carotenoids may be at a reduced risk of breast cancer. Specifically, the carotenoids a-carotene, B-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene were the ones that stood out in the study to be the best for reducing the risk of tumors and preventing the re-occurrence of them as well.

Good sources of a-carotene is carrots, B-carotene is sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables, tomatoes for lycopene, citrus for B-cryptoxanthin, leafy greens for lutein+zeaxanthin. It is important to have these in your diet daily and as you can see by the tests we did at the Race for the Cure our community did not score at the level we would have liked it too.  We are far too low and that means we are at great risk for disease processes.  Our goal is to have a score above 50, 000 and above.


Sheree DiBiase, PT is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy and she and her staff can be reached in the CDA office at (208)667-1988 and in their Spokane Valley office at (509) 891-2623.  Wellness is our goal and we want to help you be well come see us and have your antioxidant levels tested!