Antioxidants vs Free Radicals

There’s so much talk about antioxidants… Claims on food packages, statements on anti-ageing products and so on… but instead of going on about what to eat – I want to explain WHY antioxidants are so important.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidation. When we cut a slice of apple or avocado and it turns brown – it oxidizes. When oil is exposed to oxygen – it oxidizes and goes rancid. Essentially, antioxidants protect against oxidation in plants – and in our body.

The main action of antioxidants is to protect the body against free radicals. These free radicals are by-products of oxidation and are highly reactive since they are missing a critical link in their structure, which means they will do anything to ‘steal‘ from other cells in order to become complete. As they ‘steal’ from another cell they don’t just damage that cell – they generate another free radical… essentially kick starting a viscious cycle.

Free radicals are naturally produced when the body metabolizes oxygen. This amount, however, is small enough that a healthy body will naturally keep them in control via antioxidants, which chase them down and neutralize them so they can’t do any damage. Once upon a time, when humans lived off natural & unprocessed foods – full of uncompromised nutrients & antioxidants, their bodies had plenty of defense to put up a good fight. Now a days, not so much… Not only is our food processed & often void of natural antioxidants – we are also exposed to more lifestyle stressors, that resultantly means more free radicals.

Modern Lifestyle Leading To A Damaging Chain Reaction

Overly processed and destroyed food, chronic stress, food & beverages full of E numbers, toxic lotions & cleaning supplies, constant exposure to modern day electronics & street fumes… all burden the body & weaken its defense against free radicals. As result, the body can’t keep up and free radicals are free to attack the ‘normal’ cells and damage our health from the inside out. They offset a damaging chain reaction that slowly leads to more damage along with more free radicals. It may start with one cell – but it quickly creates seed for disease, poor health & premature aging.

This is why we need antioxidants. A healthy diet that supplies an abundance of antioxidants is like handing your body an army of knights in shiny armors. They fight off the free radicals and give the body a chance to restore itself and get back to good health. Cell damage repair, appearance & firmness of skin improve & the increasing risk of cardiovascular disease & cancer start decreasing. Healthier digestion, weight, improved immune system & more energy will likely be nice side bonuses from a healthy diet as well.

But while diet is important, it’s not just about what we eat. It is lifestyle. It is also the skincare, hair & cleaning products we use. The water we drink, the smoke & fumes we inhale and the amount of stress we experience on a daily basis. It may, for some, seem like an overwhelming amount of change, but even small gradual changes can and will make a difference. Read my to-do list for a few pointers on how to live a life with more antioxidants & less toxins. 

Steps Towards A Toxin Free Lifestyle
· · · ·

  • Always wash your fresh produce before eating it (read How To Best Clean Fresh Produce for a very effective & simple cleaning solution)
  • Avoid fast food, ready meals and other over processed foods
  • Use natural skincare products, such as natural oils, without common parabens & chemicals. Check your local health food store for good alternatives.
  • Avoid E numbers – check the ingredient list
  • Stay away from artificial sweeteners (talk about man-made chemicals!)
  • Use pots, pans & bakeware made of iron or steel. Those made from aluminum & teflon give off toxic matters when heated and these toxins leach into your food  (more info in this article from EWG.org)
  • Use water filter for your drinking water. Heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminum & cadmium, which are prevalent in many areas of our environment (including our water), can accumulate in soft tissues of the body and be harmful
  • Avoid fish high in mercury. King mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, shark, orange roughy & marlin are the worst, but be mindful of tuna as well, especially steaks & canned white albacore
  • Check for lead paint in your home – particularly homes built before 1978. Lead is a neurotoxin and should be avoided
  • Stop using microwaves. More and more research are finding that microwaves alter the structure of food, resulting in more free radicals & other harmful substances that remain in the body long term. Read more here
  • Exercise regularly. Aside from stimulating the major detox organs – the lungs, liver & kidneys – it also makes you sweat, which stimulates toxin release through your skin
  • Eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods – and preferable organic & local. Good choices include…
      • legumes
      • broccoli
      • sweet potato
      • pomegranate
      • blueberries
      • beets
      • eggplant
      • artichokes
      • spinach
      • walnuts & pecans
      • flaxseed
      • papaya
      • plums

+ More Tips on Natural Living…

  • Homemade Natural Cleaning Sprays has two simple recipes for non-toxic cleaning sprays. I use these all over my house and can clean without worrying about any type of toxic residue.
  • Natural skincare is important. Read Healthy Skin Using Natural Oils, where I lists my three favorite oils for skincare. They are amazing & completely non-toxic.
  • If you struggle to decipher nutritional labels & ingredient lists – this post Reading The Nutrition Label will help break it down & simplify it.
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