You’ve heard all the talk about free radicals, but do you understand what they do? Free radicals are created by the body naturally during metabolism. However, when we are exposed to environmental toxins, such as air pollution or cigarette smoke, our bodies can create too many of these unstable substances.
Free radicals - also called oxygen radicals, oxygen free radicals, and singlet oxygen - lack a particle called an electron. In an attempt to become stable, they attack other cells to try to “steal” an electron. This attack harms the cells’ delicate membranes - and makes them a target for disease.
This process is called oxidation. Just like oxygen causes metal to rust, oxidation can also damage cells. In humans, the common signs of oxidation damage can be seen in the normal signs of aging, such as wrinkles and other skin changes.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by “donating” an electron to the unstable substances. After being neutralized, free radicals no longer attempt to damage cells and are harmless to the body.
Antioxidants and your health
During the 1960s, researcher Al Tappel first suggested that specific vitamins - particularly vitamin E - acted as antioxidants within the human body, offering it protection from the damage caused by free radicals. Since that time, researchers throughout the world have suggested that free radicals may play an important role in aging and the health issues that accompany it. They’ve gone so far as to suggest that antioxidants may offer the body support against free radical damage.
Researchers also believe that antioxidants prevent the oxidation of blood fats, such as cholesterol. Recent studies have suggested that the oxidation of blood fats may be a major cause of artery hardening.
Types of antioxidant nutrients
Early antioxidant research centered on vitamin E and its antioxidant properties. Since that time, however, many important nutrients have been identified as antioxidants These include:
Beta carotene : This carotenoid is the plant pigment which gives carrots their orange color. It’s an antioxidant which promotes immune, skin, and cardiac health.
Vitamin C : This immune-supportive nutrient is considered the most important antioxidant for extracellular (outside of cells) activity. Vitamin C also helps “recycle” vitamin E, which increases vitamin E’s antioxidant activity.
OPCs : These natural phytonutrients, also known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins, have been shown to offer powerful antioxidant effects. Natural substances rich in OPCs include grape seeds, grape skins, and Pycnogenol, extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine.
Bioflavonoids : Natural plant substances are well known to enhance the action of vitamin C and support blood circulation as an antioxidant. It also treats allergies, viruses or inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Selenium : This essential mineral offers antioxidant protection and supports reproductive health in both men and women.
CoQ10 : This coenzyme, essential in speeding up some metabolic processes, has also been shown to offer extensive antioxidant effects. It is particularly supportive of the heart and circulatory system.
Promoting Total body Health
Your body is a complex organism. Each system must interact with and support other systems, and all must work together for optimum health and well-being. Here are some hints to promote total body health:
1. Good nutrition is essential to assure your good health. Eat a diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables. You should eat a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The balance of your food intake should come primarily from other plant foods, such as whole grains and legumes. You’ll naturally take in more fiber and phytonutrients this way, and your fat intake will be lower.
2. Regular, moderate exercise is vital for your healthy body. Be sure to move - whether you walk, run, swim, dance, or bicycle - for one-half hour daily. Include a stretching routine to help you remain flexible. Consider adding weight lifting to your weekly exercise schedule, too. It will help you remain strong and build muscle mass.
3. Learn to relax throughout your day. Relaxation is key to relieving stress, and is necessary to ensure your body can properly recharge as needed. Choose an activity that you find relaxing, such as a hobby, exercise, or meditation, and enjoy it daily. Teach yourself to take a time out occasionally, especially when you feel your stress level rising.
4. Be sure to get plenty of sleep. Recent studies suggest that the most important hour of sleep each night is the eighth hour. That hour is filled with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and is essential for learning, problem-solving, and strong memories. Over 100 million Americans are not getting enough sleep. Listen to your body. Your body will often tell you what it needs or wants. For instance, when you’re feeling fatigues, don’t ignore it. Your body is asking for rest or sleep. Become attuned to your body’s language and you’ll be able to meet its changing needs.
5. Consider adding natural supplements - herbs, vitamins, and other nutrients - to your daily routine. Supplementation can be an effective addition to your natural, healthy lifestyle. Some supplements work extra hard to encourage the body’s systems to work together. For instance, consider adding super foods - such as Blue Green Algae and Norwegian Kelp - to your daily routine to get a nutrition-packed boost. Adding natural antioxidants, like Pycnogenol and Phyto-antioxidant Blend can give your body an antioxidant boost.