Free radicals and antioxidants are like the classic hero/villain struggle. Free radicals are the “bad guys”, destroying the cells in your body constantly. Antioxidants are the superheroes that protect you from the bad guys.
Free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron and therefore are highly unstable. Basically this means the molecule is “out of balance” and will therefore seek balance by stealing an electron from another molecule. This can become a chain reaction. This perpetual imbalance in the body can lead to long-term cell damage or even chronic disease. Yet, free radicals are both good and bad. Beneficial functions include: microbial killing, activating genes, liver detox, and blood vessel relaxation. Negative functions: damaging other molecules and tissues.
Where do free radicals come from?
Free radicals are created by the body during vigorous exercise, infection, and inflammation. Environment is also a source of free radicals, including exposure to UV light, cigarette smoke, pesticides, pollution, stress, EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies) and car exhaust.
Trans fats are highly processed vegetable oils, created through an industrial process. Essentially, extra hydrogen molecules are forced into the natural unsaturated fatty acids (vegetable oil) by extremely high heat to make it solid and create a longer shelf life for the oil. With use, trans fats damage the cells in the body by making them more solid and less permeable, which does not allow for essential nutrients and vitamins to flow easily into the cells. Therefore, the cells cannot create adequate energy. Changes in cell membrane function eventually leads to diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.
According to the American Heart Association, trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels (HDL). Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. They are also associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Where are trans fats found?
Trans fats are found in vegetable oils (cottonseed, soy, canola), margarine, shortening & in foods labeled “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” These include pastries, cookies, cakes, crackers, and most processed and refined baked goods. *It is important to note that nutrition facts are broken down by serving size, so even though the smaller serving size shows zero grams of trans fat per serving, the ingredients may actually show trans fat oils (hydrogenated) are in present in the product. Yes, food manufacturers try to hide this information from the consumer. Thus, one can still be consuming unhealthy trans fats on a daily basis. Please read the complete ingredient list for this important information.
Antioxidants: The Good Guys!
Antioxidants neutralize or eliminate the damaging effects of free radicals to cell membranes by donating an electron. They protect against cancer and other diseases. It is necessary to continually generate antioxidant activity. We can take in antioxidants through foods that are high in vitamin C and E, minerals like selenium & zinc, and phytonutrients including bioflavonoids & carotenes.
Foods rich in Vitamin E include nuts, wheat germ oil, seeds, asparagus, avocado, green leafy vegetables, tomato & polyunsaturated veg. oils like flax seed oil. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) foods include citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, peppers, peas broccoli, papaya & Brussels sprouts.
The mineral Zinc is found in foods such as oysters, pumpkin seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Foods rich in Selenium include fish, meat, lamb liver, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, eggs and garlic. Brazil nuts are especially high in selenium.
Bioflavonoids are a plant pigments that function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Foods such as red wine, green tea, cacao, apples, berries and cherries are rich in bioflavonoids. Carotenes are high in antioxidants found in yellow and orange foods like carrots, papaya, mangoes, pumpkin, red palm oil, sweet potatoes and kale.
The Take Away
Free radicals and antioxidants are in a constant power struggle. The key is to balance both free radicals and antioxidants to achieve optimal health. It is impossible to avoid free radicals completely, but we can make sure we have enough antioxidants to balance and minimize their damage.
Wishing you divine health!