Q: I'm confused. I thought that antioxidants were really good for you; now I hear that they may not be. Can you explain?
FREDDIE G., Philadelphia
A: First of all, trying to get antioxidants by taking megadoses (two or more times the daily value) of vitamins C, A, E or beta carotene generally is ineffective or harmful. The really good guys are polyphenols (a subset of antioxidants), which you get from fruits and vegetables.
By fueling up on fruits and veggies, you increase antioxidant levels (largely superoxide dismutase enzymes, catalase and glutathione) inside your cells. That trio helps prevent damage caused by proliferation of oxidized molecules (also produced inside the cells) called free radicals. Unchecked, free radicals affect your nuclear DNA, causing mutations that can lead to cancer and diabetes.
But you need some oxidized molecules. They help you breathe, help your heart beat more strongly when you're stressed and may help fight infections. The key to good health is a balance between anti- and pro-oxidants.
Bottom line: For the right balance of polyphenols, eat nine servings of produce daily. We also believe in taking half a multivitamin twice daily for almost everyone. It's especially important for women during childbearing years and men 50-plus. Also, more than 93 percent of you are deficient in vitamins such as E, D, K and B-12, and 70 percent of kids don't get enough vitamin E.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.