Monday, July 20, 2015

Free Radicals 101

Free radicals are naturally occurring molecules that can have major negative effects on the human body. In order to prevent the production of free radicals, one must first understand what a free radical is. A free radical is a molecule that has an odd, unpaired electron; usually created from the splitting of a weak bond. They are very reactive and unstable substances that bind with the first stable molecule they come in contact with. This causes a chain reaction in which that once stable molecule, loses an electron and becomes a free radical itself. Free radicals are most commonly created by the metabolic system and immune system in order to help fight off viruses and bacteria. The presence of small amounts of free radicals in the body is natural and beneficial, but an accumulation or overabundance of them can cause harm to important cells and systems.

Free radicals will feed electrons off of any molecule, which unfortunately includes DNA. This can ultimately result in the formation of cancer and other life-altering diseases such as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Free radicals also attack proteins and lipids found in the body. They attribute to about 80% of all skin aging because of their effect on collagen and elastin fibers that plump the skin and keep it vibrant. Causes such as metals from pollution, smoking, and stress can put a person at an increased risk for free radicals.

One of the easiest ways to help prevent the accumulation of free radicals is to eat foods that contain a lot of antioxidants, specifically Vitamins C and E. Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in the body, and Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body. Antioxidants willingly donate one of their electrons to the unstable free radicals, thus ending both the constant stealing of electrons and production of more free radicals. The best way to ensure your body is getting a healthy dosage of antioxidants is by eating 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The link below has a list of foods rich with antioxidants, such as, nuts, dark green veggies, and blueberries.

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