Free Radicals and Antioxidants Are At War In Your Body
There is constant warfare going on in our bodies, between free radicals and antioxidants. The winner impacts aging and health.
Most of us have heard of them, and most of us either have little understanding of them, or if we do understand them, know what to do about them.
I know I went through a period when I first started learning about antioxidants and free radicals where I went to my local health food store and
bought product after product, to build up my immune defenses against future heart problems, cancer and other diseases.
Have you done that?
I quickly learned I could not healthily consume enough red wine to get what I read I need, nor eat enough wild blueberries. So much information is out there, and most of it is designed to sell one product or another.
My intent here is to give some facts about free radicals and antioxidants.
And then to let you know the best ideas to make sure you are helping to win this war in your own body.
It Is a War Worth Winning!
Free radicals are formed as a byproduct of natural cell function. If that were the only source of free radicals, we would not have the challenge of getting enough antioxidants for healthy bodies.
However, we have many other sources that produce free radicals in our lives. Pollution in the environment, and from smoking, and radiation produce free radicals.
Even excessive exercise can result in more of them. Free radicals are a byproduct of many medications and treatments, especially radiation.
What excessive free radicals do is to interfere with normal cell function and growth. They have been linked to increased cancer rates and heart disease and are believed to cause premature aging. In causing damage to healthy cells, they cause inflammation which may lead to cancer.
There is still a lot of study going on, and more and more information is being gained. The evidence seems to say very strongly that fighting excessive free radicals is a war worth winning.
Where Free Radicals Come From
Remember back when you learned about cells, and how they are composed of neutrons, protons and electrons? In normal cell function, the outer layer of each cell seeks to join with or share electrons with other cells, so that each has 8 electrons in its outer shell.
Sometimes, instead, a molecule can be formed that has an unpaired odd electron of a weak bond that can split.
Then free radicals are formed, that are not stable and react quickly with other molecular structures to try to steal the electron it needs to become stable again.
Then a chain reaction begins, because the molecule that lost its electron then becomes a new free radical and steals, and so forth.
The final result can be total destruction of the cell.
Antioxidants are the Primary Weapon in This War
Antioxidants are stable when they lose an electron. They scavenge around in the body, seeking out the free radicals and donate electrons to them, without becoming a new free radical.
They are the ninja warriors against premature aging and inflammation.
Vitamin E, which is fat-soluble, and Vitamin C, which is water-soluble, are the two most effective antioxidants found in the body. There are others. Water itself is an antioxidant.
The very best source for antioxidants is eating correctly, not by taking supplements. There are some indications from research that supplements may even cause harm for most people.
There are a few whose ailments may call for a need for a supplement, and it is best to review your needs beyond a normal diet with your doctor. There is no conclusive research yet on optimal levels.
Hooray! Chocolate is Good For You!
It is generally recommended that you obtain them from a diet containing 5 – 8 servings a day of foods high in antioxidants.
These are generally the foods with bright colors, like leafy greens, spinach, red and purple and wild blue berries, sweet potatoes, wild-caught red salmon, as well as pecans and cooked artichoke hearts.
Chocolate is on the list of foods high in antioxidants! The darker the better, so aim for 70% cocoa, not milk chocolate. It is not the sugar in the candy or cocoa, but the cocoa that is what is good for you.
There are herbs and spices that have high levels of antioxidants, so it is good to learn to use them in your cooking. Here is a list from the highest on down for cooking additives that will help raise your antioxidant levels:
- Cayenne Pepper
- Green Tea
Other Allies in This Warfare
There are other allies found in a healthy diet that help in this war against excessive levels of free radicals. Many of them are found in these same foods.
WATER- a hugely important part. Drinking 8-12 8 oz glasses of water is widely advised. We know what is needed.
Do you have trouble drinking enough? Check out this post for really efficient ingestion of water to help fight free radicals.
Chlorophyll helps cleanse and regenerate the body at the cellular level. It is known to
- fight infection and help heal wounds.
- help our bodies at the molecular and cellular level
- help cleanse the body
- aids operation of healthy bodily systems like circulation and digestion
- boost immunity.
Chlorophyll accomplishes these benefits with magnesium that is at its core, that alkalizes our bodies. You find chlorophyll in green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium is the part of a plant that is involved in photosynthesis, and it is also involved in over 300 human bodily functions. It is so important that we have a whole blog on magnesium.
It can also be found in shrimp, sunflower seeds and almonds.
Probiotics and Prebiotics and Digestive Enzymes
These are different, and both aid good digestion. Both come from raw foods, and are destroyed by heat.
Probiotics and prebiotics are living bacteria that are good for you.
Digestive enzymes are not living, but are active. They break down food into nutrients that can be absorbed by the body. They are made in the body, and also come from raw foods.
Probiotics are not made in the body. They come from outside, and get destroyed by antibiotics. They are found in raw fermented foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut and even sourdough bread.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that do not get digested by the body, and serve as food for probiotics. Sources are oatmeal, asparagus and legumes.
Supplements Are Not a Replacement for Healthy Eating
There are times when supplements can be a good thing.
But taking supplements is not a healthy substitute for eating a varied and balanced diet. It can be challenging eating enough fruits and vegetables, especially at breakfast time.
There are some good green superfoods that you can use for that.
There is evidence that taking antioxidant supplements is not the best approach to getting the proper nutrition. I am not suggesting here adding vitamin A, C or E supplements. However, having a powdered concentrated form of greens for part of your day may be a good way to get enough servings.
Taking a probiotic and/or digestive enzyme supplement can add to your digestive health, enhancing maximal absorption of nutrients.
What has been your experience with alkalizing your body? Do you take supplements? If so, what ones, and why?
Share your experiences with us please.
You may have information that will help all of our readers pursue their most healthy and creative lives. Thanks!