Antioxidants and Free Radicals
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are atoms, molecules, or ions with unpaired electrons in their outermost shell. Because they have unpaired electrons, they are highly reactive and will bond to anything near them that has an electron it can use in its outer shell. This causes damage to cells in the body. To make matters worse, free radicals in the body are created by the organism itself as a result of normal processes. It is absolutely inevitable that your cells will be attacked by free radicals because they are everywhere in the environment. The only way to protect yourself from them is to take antioxidants, which prevent other molecules from bonding with them and neutralizing them, making them inert.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that contain atoms with unpaired electrons in their outermost shell. When antioxidants bond to free radicals, the unpaired electron pairs up and the antioxidants become stable. A molecule becomes a radical when it loses an electron during one of its reactions either by oxidation or another means, but once it is stabilized with antioxidants, these molecules will no longer be able to bond with other molecules and become free radicals.
How do I know if I need extra antioxidants?
There are several factors that determine if you should take antioxidants:
Dietary factors-food that is processed will contain fewer nutrients, which means it will probably be lacking in antioxidants. In addition, cooking certain foods reduces the number of antioxidants they have. This includes frying or boiling vegetables.
Lifestyle Factors-smoking and drinking alcohol excessively can reduce the number of antioxidants in your body by forcing them to bond to free radicals in the smoke or alcohol before they can bond to other molecules.
Medical factors-certain diseases such as diabetes and HIV allow for chemicals in the body which will produce even more free radicals, meaning that much more antioxidants must be taken.
Foods high in antioxidants
There are many foods that are high in antioxidants, including:
-Berries (blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries)-darker berries tend to have more antioxidants than light red or orange ones. These fruits also contain vitamin C and fiber to help reduce cholesterol levels.
-Green tea contains polyphenols, which can protect the body from dangerous free radicals.
-Beans and soybeans contain antioxidants that protect the heart from disease.
-Spices such as cloves, oregano, rosemary, and basil contain powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cancer, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and many other diseases common in America.
-Broccoli, kale, and other green leafy vegetables contain powerful antioxidants called carotenoids that help prevent cancer.
-Nuts such as pecans, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Other foods that are high in antioxidants include:
-Apples (which also contain phosphorous and fiber)
-Grapefruit (which also contains vitamin C)
-Soybeans (in the form of tofu or soy milk – which is high in protein as well – and tempeh, a fermented soybean product that tastes like meat.)
-Prunes and raisins (which also contain fiber)
-Tomatoes (as well as tomato juice, paste, and sauce)
How much antioxidants should I take?
There is currently no recommended daily allowance of antioxidants. However, the National Cancer Institute stated that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can reduce cancer risks by 25-40 percent. The American Dietetic Association stated that antioxidants can lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, while also helping to improve skin tone and boost the immune system.
Antioxidants are very important in maintaining good health. They reduce free radicals produced by the body itself as well as those found in tobacco smoke, alcohol, and other environmental pollutants. Those who have a poor diet, smoke or drink heavily, or suffer from certain diseases need to take extra antioxidants.
We hope that after reading this article, you understand the importance of antioxidants and free radicals. If you liked this article and would like to see more, please leave a comment!