Our body’s cells are always under attack. While we are all too familiar with the threat of viruses and infections, another threat is looming. Free radical damage. But what exactly are free radicals? Free radicals are unstable molecules that if left unchecked can cause damage to our cells and DNA which is thought to not only accelerate aging, but play a major part in the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline and vision loss.
How the Body Generates Free Radicals
The body generates free radicals in many different ways, including as a natural by-product of metabolism. Eating, breathing, exercise, air pollution, stress, cigarette smoke, UV light, and chemicals all generate free radicals. While the body has natural ways to combat them, the problem arises when there are more free radicals present that can be kept in check by antioxidants. While it’s impossible to completely avoid free radicals, the human body has several mechanisms to counteract oxidative stress by producing antioxidants, which are either naturally produced, or externally supplied through foods and/or supplements.
Combating Free Radicals
Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants is the best way to help your body combat free radicals. Eating a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables will help provide your body with an important array of important antioxidants as well as phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If you’re, however, like most Americans, (who according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables), there are ways you can optimize your nutrient intake.
Super Antioxidant Foods
Choosing nutrient-dense super antioxidant fruits and vegetables that contain a large volume of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can help give you the most bang for your buck. For example, choosing spinach or kale over iceberg lettuce will give you a bigger antioxidant boost than iceberg, which is mostly water. Other super-star antioxidant foods include dark chocolate, blueberries, red cabbage, pomegranates, beets, beans and walnuts. Additionally, while supplements are not a replacement for food, for some people, super antioxidant supplements may be a useful way to get nutrients they might otherwise lack.
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U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, December 14). Antioxidants. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/antioxidants.html