Fight Free Radicals with Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Our bodies were designed to take out the trash (detox). Every day, we eat or are exposed to chemicals that enter our body and need to be removed. Even our daily biological functions produce toxins and byproducts that need to be transported out of the body. For example, when you inhale air (which you need to live) the resulting residue (carbon, nitrogen, and other gases and toxins) need to leave the body (be detoxed) or they will poison you. Your lungs are designed to support this process. Likewise, your skin, lymphatic system, liver, and kidney all provide clean up for your body, taking really bad stuff out! Think of them as your own personal garbage collection company.
One very important piece of garbage that has to get out of your body is free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that are missing one electron.
The problem with the unstable free radicals is that they are desperate to replace the missing electron, so they literally fly around your body looking to steal an electron from other cells. When it steals the electron, it creates a new free radical that starts frantically looking around for another cell to attack and steal a free radical. That’s a non-stop domino effect you do NOT want happening your body.
Each free radical can set off a chain reaction that creates millions of free radicals—and the whole process can happen at incredible speeds. Called a free radical cascade, this chain reaction of free radicals rapidly damages your body. It is estimated that the chain reaction can trigger 6.023 x 1021 billion molecules to react per second! 
I mentioned that your body creates free radicals through some biological processes, including breathing. Yes, breathing. This is ok because your body never stops repairing and replacing free radicals; it is designed to handle some, but when you combine those with all free radicals produced by the toxins in our environment and poor nutrition, it is very hard for your body to keep up. When it can’t, your body experiences oxidative stress, the net result of excessive free radical reaction.
Oxidative stress inside your body cause pre-mature aging and decay, similar to metal rusting or a fruit rotting.
Too many free radicals cause corroded cellular membranes, DNA damage, altered biochemical compounds, oxidation and even cell death. There’s a tipping point when all this damage creates premature aging, health conditions and even allows disease to set in: allergies, arthritis, cancer, cataracts, Parkinson’s, etc.
That’s a scary list. So what do you do?
Eat antioxidant-rich foods and superfoods.
“Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of antioxidants and the role they play in maintaining good health and reducing your risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.” – Dr. Mercola
ANTIOXIDANTS TO THE RESCUE
Antioxidants are a group of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that fight the oxidation and decay caused by free radicals. How? They literally stop the free radical chain reaction in its tracks by “gifting” an electron and filling the void the free radical is so desperate to fill. That simple exchange transforms the free radical back into a normal cell and stops the chain reaction of electron theft.
Because they neutralize free radical activity that causes premature aging, antioxidants are anti-aging. They prevent cellular damage and keep the development of diseases at bay. (Note: This is one function of antioxidants…they do even more in the body, making them a very important part of a SuperLife diet. For example, antioxidants protect your DNA, which is another way of preventing cancer from developing in your body).
Some foods have larger amounts of antioxidants in them than others. The National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designed the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity unit (or ORAC score) to measure how many antioxidants are in foods and supplements. One of my favorite superfoods, a tiny little leaf called moringa, is a huge antioxidant powerhouse! Lab tests for moringa show it is more nutrient, antixodant-rich than all other commonly mentioned antioxidant superfoods including acai berries, cloves, green tea, blueberries, garlic, dark chocolate…ALL OF THEM. To put it in perspective, it’s ORAC score is 157,000, while acai scores 100,000, blueberries score 9,000, and cloves score 7,250 to list a few.
The higher the ORAC score, the more potential a food has for neutralizing free radicals and reducing their damage. For a list of ORAC foods and their values, visit http://www.superfoodly.com/orac-values/.
GET ANTIOXIDANT GREEDY
There are actually several distinct families of antioxidants (network antioxidants, bioflavonoids, anthocyanins and carotenoids are a few) and even these families have more layers of unique antioxidants with distinct roles in your body. So even a food with lower overall levels of antioxidants can offer a unique strain that you need! The easiest way to find a wide variety of antioxidants is to look for brightly colored fresh foods. Carotenoids – the pigmented nutrients that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors – contain antioxidants.
You want to get all the different types of antioxidants in your body because each one has their own distinct role, and you want to get all the different types because they actually all work together to keep you healthy and young. It’s another reason to eat a diet packed full of variety! You don’t want to zero in on one source of antioxidants or one antioxidant-rich food. And you don’t want to aim for only foods with the highest ORAC scores. Variety, variety, variety! In addition to antioxidant-rich fresh foods, you can add antioxidants through teas as well, including green tea. Try my antioxidant-rich pomegranate green tea recipe.
Eating a wide variety of antioxidant-rich fresh foods and vegetables will fight free radicals and prevent aging and disease in your body.
THE LIFE FORCE BONUS
Most of the time, a food that is good for one of the life forces is good for all of them. This is due to the interconnectedness that binds all the life forces together. By eating the fresh, brightly colored, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables for detoxification, you’ll be supporting all the other life forces, including nutrition, hydration, alkalization, and oxygenation as well.
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How do you get antioxidants in your diet? Share your comments and tips below.