A very bad oxident

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ever since my wife retired she has a lot more time to read, including Prevention magazine, an annoying little publication that makes you worry about nearly every aspect of your life from the second you wake up in the morning until you go to bed.

The big topic in each month's issue is antioxidants in our food, which the editors claim "shield us against free radicals that inflame our artery linings, turn normal cells cancerous, damage our eyesight, increase obesity and visibly age us." When given a choice, I rather read Bride Magazine in the doctor's office.

According to an article by Jo Robinson, excerpted from her book "Eat on the Wild Side," prehistoric man had superior food, far richer in vitamins and minerals than modern-day fare. Of course, those guys had a lifespan of only 22 years, which meant they never had to raise a teenager. I'd have thought that would add an extra 20 years, easily.

Most depictions of early man show pretty grumpy faces. You never see a Neanderthal with a smile, or a Cro-Magnon laughing. Why are they unhappy? The author makes it clear: "Generations of agricultural manipulation has taken the 'medicine' out of our foods." Yes, how depressing: just a couple of decades to live and their strawberries tasted like Lipitor.

The writer is a bit obsessed with how corn has diminished in nutritional value over the millennia. She claims that corn is much too sweet nowadays. (Yeah, that's a common complaint you hear at the farmer's market on a Saturday morning.) The author instructs the reader on how not to cook corn, advising against "ripping off the husks, stripping the silk and putting the naked ears into the water." This is the most erotic paragraph ever to appear in Prevention, besting by far Martha Stewart's guest column: "Sex in Your Seventies."

Other fruits and vegetables have also faltered. The writer claims there was once an apple that had 100 times the antioxidants that most fruit has today. Sadly, someone has already eaten that apple. This magazine has nothing but bad news.

The author is a big fan of garlic, lamenting how we abuse its natural healing potential by cooking it improperly. Ms. Robinson says that health conscious chefs know how to enhance the antioxidant value of garlic. Before cooking it, they let it sit for 20 minutes in the open air after peeling off the skin. Maybe this explains why at Olive Garden I don't get my side order of garlic bread until I'm 10 minutes into my Triple Chocolate Strata.

Salad is the biggest loser in today's world. Robinson wants us to treat our leafy friends right. She recommends we pull the lettuce leaves apart, soak in water 20 minutes, and spin dry. Then place in a plastic bag with 20 evenly spaced pin pricks. This is more time than I spend with any of my current friends.

Oh, and there's this: "Tearing lettuce leaves before storing them doubles the antioxidants because plants respond to 'insults' by producing bitter phytonutrients to fend off insects and animals." If you think your head of lettuce was insulted when you tore its leaves, see how it feels when you spit it out.

When my wife finished this article, she was torn as to whether to believe every word. "I'm not saying I'm not anti- antioxidants, she told me. I have no idea what that sentence means, but I think four negatives make a positive.