What are free radicals? Why are they damaging to the human body?
And how does antioxidant nutrients help protect the body against free radical damage?
“Free radicals” is a term often used to describe damaged cells that can be problematic. They are “free” because they are missing a critical molecule, which sends them on a rampage to pair with another molecule. “These molecules will rob any molecule to quench that need.”
Free radicals are formed naturally in the body, but their production is increased by factors such as smoking, alcohol, fatty foods, oxidized cholesterol, air pollution, infection, stress, excessive sunlight, and toxins like radiation. Every single cell in our body gets assaulted by free radicals 10,000 times a day. With age, free radicals increase. In our lifetime, we may produce 17 tons of free radicals. Free radicals steal electrons from healthy cell components, impacting their structure and function.
An apple slice turns brown. Fish becomes rancid. A cut on your skin is raw and inflamed. All of these result from a natural process called oxidation. It happens to all cells in nature, including the ones in your body. To help your body protect itself from the rigors of oxidation. Your body needs to put up its best defense, it is especially true in today’s environment, antioxidants are crucial to your health.
Antioxidants terminate the chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. Antioxidants are the nutritional equivalent of man’s best friend – they are loyal protectors and nurturers of our cells, repelling disease, and promoting good health.