I heard here and there that antioxidants were the best thing to scavenge free-radicals. However, what are those things? And more importantly, why are they so bad?
A free radical is a molecule with a free electron in its orbit. To become stable, it strips an electron from another molecule. So how is this bad for us?
The effects of free-radicals accumulation:
- Blocks effects of enzymes
- Disturbs the protein synthesis (essential to repair our DNA)
- Oxidizes our antibodies
- Accelerates ageing (including skin ageing)
- Increases the risk of cells death
- Oxidizes LDL (bad) cholesterol which leads to stiffening of arteries
- Increases chronic inflammation
How do free-radicals works?
First, it’s important to know that’s impossible to get rid of all free-radicals. Those molecules are produced within the body. When a free-radical strips an electron to a second molecule, the first molecule, once a free-radical, is now stable. But the second molecule, the one with the stripped electron, is now becoming a free-radical itself. So molecules in the body are juggling with electrons, creating and stabilizing free-radicals. It’s the accumulation of those molecules that creates problems.
How to protect us?
They key is to always give fresh new molecules from which free-radicals can strip an electron. The juggling mustn’t stop. For that we have to supply our body with we call antioxidants. Those substances includes:
- enzymes (ex: glutathione)
- vitamin E (in nuts and seeds)
- vitamin C (in red pepper, citrus and other fruits)
- betacarotene (in carrots, watermelon and other orange colored fruits and veggies)
- lycopene (in tomato, papaya, watermelon and other red colored fruits and veggies)
- flavonoids (in chocolate, red wine, berries, green tea and other superfoods)
- chelating agents (ex: cilantro)
- minerals and oligo-elements (iron, zinc, selenium, etc.)
The possible causes for an accumulation of free-radicals are a lack of minerals, pollution, nitrates, a lack in antioxidants and inflammation. Choosing a natural lifestyle with a whole and unprocessed plant based diet including a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables is a great way to prevent free-radicals accumulation.