What Are Free Radicals and Anti-Oxidants All About?
We hear a lot about free radicals and anti-oxidants. You may be wondering what the fuss is all about and whether it merits any action on your part. Free radicals are chemicals in our bodies that behave like a tightly wound spring with a hair trigger, just ready to be set off. When they go off and “unwind,” they transfer their energy to other molecules, essentially winding up those molecules’ springs. And this can progress into a chain reaction. The problem is that the process of winding and unwinding damages the molecules. They no longer perform the function the body needs them to perform. Even worse, they can become toxic to the body.
Free radicals are a normal part of metabolism. Our bodies are designed to produce them and to manage them safely. Anti-oxidants are chemicals our bodies use to snuff out the energy of free radicals and prevent chain reactions. But our bodies were designed hundreds of thousands of years ago, and times have changed. In modern society, we produce free radicals at a rate that overwhelms our pool of anti-oxidants. Without enough anti-oxidants to absorb the free radicals’ energy in a safe way, they cause chain reactions and create a lot of damage at the molecular and cellular level. It’s the kind of damage that, over time, weakens our tissues and organs and leads to degenerative diseases, like hypertension, arthritis and cancer.
We can protect ourselves in two ways: by limiting exposure to free radicals and by increasing the availability of anti-oxidants. Free radicals are produced by; excessive exposure to the sun (avoid that), pollutants and toxins in the air, water and food we eat (limit those), heavy exercise and stress (manage that). As you can see, we cannot fully escape the sources in our lives.
We can, however, do a lot to increase our pool of anti-oxidants. Food is the first line of offense. Whole, plant-based foods (unprocessed or minimally processed) such as grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and unrefined oils are terrific sources of anti-oxidants. Rather than trying to cherry pick, it’s easiest to simply eat a varied diet rich in whole foods. The more richly colored a food, the better. So with vegetables, choose dark greens, yellows, oranges, reds and purples.
Finally, you can also boost your anti-oxidants with four vitamins and minerals supplements. They are vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene and selenium. You can purchase them as single supplements or in a multi vitamin and mineral.
The effects of these harmful radicals are one of those things that in the short term will go unnoticed. But slowly building over the years, they can be the cause of serious degenerative diseases that can be very difficult to reverse. Make anti-oxidants part of your life. Taking action is easy and the time is now.