Free Radicals

What are they?

Free radicals are unstable molecules that float around cells constantly trying to become stable by stealing electrons that are essential to the health of the cells. Once they steal the electron, effectively damaging the healthy cell, the molecule to which the electron belonged to then becomes a free radical itself. This destructive process shows a snowball effect that can do serious damage to the body on a cellular level, disrupting all levels of cell function. In fact free radicals are responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases.

Where do they come from?

Free radicals are often natural by-products of ongoing biochemical reactions in everyday metabolic functions and detoxification processes. In these small numbers the body is able to combat them with the use of antioxidants in turn creating a healthy balance. But when we introduce more free radicals from the outside environment, this is when they start to wreak havoc on the body.

Free radicals can be found in the food we eat, water we drink, air we breathe and drugs and medicines we consume. All of these foods and products laced with pollutants and chemicals are a natural haven for the equally treacherous free radicals.

Controlling Free Radicals with Antioxidants

The Free Radical Theory of Aging

First surfacing in the 1950s, the free radical theory of aging was developed by a Dr. Denham Harmon. The basis of this theory is that humans and other organisms age because cells accumulate free radical damage over time. Furthermore it implies that antioxidants such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E will slow the process of aging by preventing free radicals from stealing electrons from otherwise stable molecules, and thus reducing the formation of free radicals.

Antioxidants do this by lending out their own electrons to these free radicals, stabilizing the cells and preventing the spread of the radicals and subsequent cellular damage.

Foods Rich with Antioxidants

In order to better combat these free radicals that are more abundant in today’s chemical ridden world, we need to increase the amount of antioxidants that we consume. This increase in antioxidants will help prevent premature aging, tissue damage and disease.

Antioxidants come in a variety of shapes and forms. You can find them in the form of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. But most antioxidants come from plant sources such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Apples, onions, soy beans, blueberries, cranberries and a few plant-based foods including green and black teas, coffee, red wines and dark chocolate also contain significant levels of antioxidants.

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