Score big losing weight!

Keri Glassman MS, RD, CND

"Antioxidant" has become a trendy buzz word, but do you really know what it means? You should, because according to experts eating enough of them can help you lose weight, live longer, think better, and look younger. It’s true. Read our interview with Keri Glassman, the author of The O2 Diet, and find out the latest about the cutting-edge diet that will make you healthy, thin, and beautiful. 

DD: Can you explain what antioxidants are and how they work in our body. Why are they so are important?
KG: In simple terms, antioxidants protect us from damage by free radicals — the "bad guys" in our body that come from UV exposure, environmental pollution, stress, some foods, and simply the process of aging! Free radicals disrupt normal cell functions and have been linked to many health problems, including premature aging (aka wrinkles), heart disease, cancer, poor immune function, and Alzheimer’s.
Antioxidants work in our body in many different ways. They can:  “Quench” the single oxygen molecules by destroying them; Help the homeless oxygen molecules bind with other molecules in a less disruptive manner;Prevent the breakdown of the molecule in the first place, so that the free radical is never created; and encourage the body to crank out more of its own arsenal of antioxidants, such as lipoic acid.
Antioxidants are important! They help your body by: Preventing neuronal degeneration; Protecting you from developing cancer; Helping to prevent heart disease; Slowing the aging process (to make you more beautiful); Improving your overall health: May even increase your life span!
DD:  What is the ORAC scale?
KG: ORAC is a method of measuring a food’s potential to control those "bad guys" – the free radicals! The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity scale offers a fairly precise measure of the ability to either destroy or neutralize the disease-causing free radicals. The test, which can be done on foods, tissue, or living plasma, takes two measurements into account: one of hydrophilic antioxidants which just means chemicals that bond with water); and one of lipophilic antioxidants, those that bond best with fats) – to come up with a single score. The ORAC scale was developed as a way to determine which foods were richest in antioxidants. Researchers suggest eating at least 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC “points” per day. In essence, ORAC measures a food’s antioxidant power.
DD: Do different antioxidants have different benefits? Can you give us some examples? 
KG: Each antioxidant-rich food provides its own benefits, so don’t just stick to one. In my new book, The 02 Diet, The Cutting-Edge Antioxidant-Based Program that Will Make You Healthy, Thin, and Beautiful, I suggest a variety of high antioxidant foods that are easy additions to your diet.  All antioxidant foods have more than just one benefit, but some specifically help everything from making your body slimmer, making your skin glow, sustaining an overall healthy body, allowing for a healthier heart, stimulating a focused mind, or a combination of all of these benefits!
Red grapefruit: This is more than a breakfast food – it’s a weight-loss jump-start! Packed with Vitamin C and fiber, this citrus fruit speeds weight loss. One study found that people who ate half a grapefruit with each meal lost 3.6 pounds, while those who drank a serving of grapefruit juice three times a day lost 3.3 pounds. (Many people in the study lost more than 10 pounds without making any other dietary changes.) While all grapefruit is great, the pink and red varieties contain lycopene and are extra good for your heart. Half a grapefruit has 1,900 ORAC points.
Prunes. Okay, so they’re not pretty. But these wrinkly little fruits are rich in Vitamin K and a top source of the mineral boron. We need both for strong bones. Researchers have found that prunes provide protection against postmenopausal bone loss. One three-prune serving gives you 1,900 ORAC points.
Cherries: University of Michigan researchers have found that anthocyanins in dark cherries, especially the tarter varieties, reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They pack 3,500 ORAC points per serving. Just don’t swallow the pits!
Cinnamon: There’s a reason most of us drool when we walk by a bakery, and cinnamon is a big part of it. Just the smell of this heavenly spice is enough to curb fatigue, ease frustration, and increase alertness. Researchers tested it on stressed-out commuters as they drove! I cook with cinnamon as often as I can. Sometimes, on days when both my kids are screaming, I boil a cinnamon stick in the hopes that those wonderful stress-busting aromas will keep me out of trouble! Besides managing stress, researchers believe cinnamon may inhibit certain types of Alzheimer’s cells. When eaten, one teaspoon adds 7,000 ORAC points to a recipe.
Artichokes: What’s more fun to eat than steamed artichokes? I love them because they’re one of the best calorie bargains going, at 60 calories each. Eat an artichoke as an appetizer and you may end up consuming fewer calories overall at the meal. Artichokes are also super high on the ORAC scale — 7,900 ORAC points — and they contain phytochemicals that may lower cholesterol levels and act as an anti-inflammatory in the skin, making them a beauty food as well.
Pistachios: I have memories of my dad eating the red dyed ones while watching football. For many people, they’re a great dietary tool, since the time it takes to pop the little green guys out of their shells makes you eat them more slowly. In many ways, they are nutritionally like other nuts, especially almonds. But pistachios are also packed with plant sterols, which researchers think lower the risk of heart disease. Eighteen pistachios have 1,000 ORAC points.
DD: What is a high ORAC diet, and what is so good for us?
KG: Researchers have just begun to scratch the surface of antioxidant research. There are now literally hundreds of studies linking antioxidant-rich foods to better health, including everything from reduced heart disease to a decreased likelihood of cancer. And while taking too many antioxidant supplements in pill form may be harmful, there’s absolutely no downside to consuming more nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, as long as you control calories of course! Although the current recommendations are that we eat between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC points a day for optimum health, why not get as many points as you want — from food! The O2 Diet is built around consuming 30,000 ORAC points a day.
Think that number sounds crazy? It’s not unrealistic at all. If you eat the high-ORAC fruits, vegetables, and other foods I recommend — all within a range of calories that will allow you to achieve your healthiest weight — it’s not tough to achieve the number.
Don’t forget you still need to eat a balanced diet. Sure, you could get to 30,000 easily on nothing but artichokes, blueberries, and hot cocoa, but that’s not a balanced diet. You’d be cheating yourself out of the wide variety of nutrients out there.
DD: What is your opinion of those juice drinks that claim to equal several servings of fruit and vegetables? Is freshness important if you are concerned with antioxidants?  
KG: Major brands have started to recognize the importance of high antioxidant foods, which is why we’ve been seeing a growing trend in marketing food and cosmetic products as ones that are good sources of antioxidants. Many of these juices are actually great sources of antioxidants. You just need to be careful not to over-consume calories and beverages that have added sugar. Stick to 100 percent juice and use portion control! 
DD:  What is the advantage of The O2 Diet for those who want to lose weight?           
KG: The O2 Diet is all about empowering yourself to put the best foods in your body. When you understand the science behind these powerful foods, you want to put these foods in your body, and you feel empowered doing so! When you eat these nutrient-dense foods you feel better, you look better, you sleep better, you have better energy, and better skin — and a byproduct of all of that is weight loss!  You don’t feel like you are on a diet; you want to continue. Also, the foods in The O2 Diet are satisfying, making it easy to stick to the plan. This diet does much more than provide the basic calories you need to make it until bedtime. It offers more genuine nutrition than you probably have eaten in your entire life. Consuming the O2 Diet’s 30,000 ORAC points each day will help you reach your target weight. But this diet also steers you toward the best foods for addressing your other health concerns. Some foods have been shown to be beneficial in easing the outward signs of aging, for example, while others are proven boosters for the immune system.