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Free Radicals and Antioxidants PDF Print E-mail

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It is amazing the constant buzz we hear about antioxidants and free radicals.  Use this lotion, drink this juice, and take this pill.  Well before you rummage through the rainforests of Brazil to go acai berry picking here is a simple description of how a free radical does damage, and how the antioxidants become our heroes.

It all starts with 2 attached molecules (cells) that split up because the electrons holding them together become damaged by:

  • metabolism
  • pollution
  • radiation
  • cigarette smoke
  • herbicides
  • stress
  • lack of exercise
  • lack of sleep
  • drug abuse

Now these damaged cells aka “free radicals” are frustrated and try to get back electrons and will now attempt to attack other neighboring cells to steal theirs, only to cause a chain reaction called “oxidated stress” which will quickly effect and damage millions of cells.  Cells that become damaged include proteins, lipids, & DNA all affecting the brain, and other tissues in the body.  This “oxidated stress” has been studied to be a major contributor to:

  • heart disease
  • arthritis
  • cancer susceptibility
  • premature aging (especially the skin)
  • cataracts
  • edema and leg swelling

When you think of oxidated stress imagine slicing an apple, how it quickly turns brown and deteriorates, basically that is what is happening to our body at a rate that quickly.

Now don’t go into a panic.  You are actually repairing those damaged cells on a daily basis by eating and drinking foods everyday that contain antioxidants.  What the antioxidant does is basically donates one of its own electrons to the free radical and helps that cell to become healthy again.  The beauty of the antioxidant is that once it has given up it’s electron it does not become a free radical itself.

Antioxidants are amazing and are found in many foods and beverages we consume everyday in a healthy diet. Even though there are new foods and supplements that come out every day bragging to have the highest level of antioxidants available, keep in mind that the majority of the highest level of antioxidant foods available is at your local grocery store, the highest one is my favorite chocolate!  Undutched cocoa powder, and bittersweet chocolate head the list of highest levels, then white tea, green rooibos tea, green tea, red rooibos tea, oolong tea, and black teas.  The majority of the next highest antioxidant foods are found in the fresh fruit and vegetable section. 

For those who can’t always eat perfectly there are some great supplements out there.  Some are a bit over the top, and others are perfect for what you may need.  Doctors do become concerned at times that a person could actually over do it when it comes to antioxidant supplements, so stick to the serving suggestions on the labels.

Now how do we know that these foods contain the highest levels of antioxidants, scientists have created a testing system called the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbency capacity) test.  This test measures the antioxidants ability to pacify the free radical.  The system tests the foods or plants and grades them with a number that becomes the ORAC score or value. 

So follow our antioxidant list and see where some your favorite foods score.

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