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:
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.