In recent years there has been an increase in attention placed on the importance of antioxidants in our diets in the field of nutrition and among those who eat consciously. We know that antioxidants are good for us, but what exactly is oxidation? Why should we counteract it and why is it harmful?
Oxidation is the natural metabolic process of removing electrons from an atom or molecule. This occurs during the process of metabolism when we combine fuel, our digested food, with oxygen, the air we breath, to create energy.
Free radicals are formed as a byproduct of oxidation. Free Radicals are molecules that have lost one of their electrons during oxidation and therefore steal other molecule’s electrons to stabilize themselves. This turns the newly stripped molecules into free radicals as well which causes a domino effect of stripping and leads to extensive damage to the dna of our cells which sets us up for age related disease.
A small amount of free radicals is normal and healthy as they regulate many biological processes such metabolism, vascular tone, and immune response. The problem occurs when we generate too many free radicals causing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is defined as “the total burden placed on organisms by the constant production of free radicals in the normal course of metabolism plus whatever other pressures the environment brings to bear” (Weil). It is these other pressures that we need to keep in check to limit excessive free radical exposure. An acidic diet is a key culprit in the formation of free radicals as they are a byproduct of the process of neutralizing acidic foods. Other factors that lead to an increase in free radicals are environmental toxins, stress, and carcinogens.
Fortunately we do have a defense against all this oxidative stress in the form of antioxidants. As free radicals are the takers, antioxidants are the givers donating electrons and stopping the chain reaction. Some rich sources of antioxidants include raw, plant foods, raw cacao, green tea, berries, and bee pollen. By minimizing our exposure to factors that can increase our oxidative stress load and increasing our intake of antioxidants we can combat free radical damage and therefore decrease our risk of aging and age-related disease.
Holistic Health Coach