What exactly is a free radical?Free radicals are atoms, molecules or ions that have lost an electron due to oxidation rendering them ”unstable.” When free radicals interact with certain chemical reactions in the body, they can create significant damage to healthy cells. In fact, free radicals are believed to be a major contributor to the accelerated aging process of organs and tissue.So what is oxidation?
Actually, oxidation is not unlike the process we know as “rust” on automobiles. When metal interacts long enough with oxygen it becomes weak and flaky. It degenerates and decays. A similar process takes place in our bodies when free radicals are formed due to external factors such as pollution, radiation, smoke or through internal processes such as digestion and metabolism. An abundance of free radicals can weaken our immune system that can lead to diseases like cancer, senile dementia, heart disease, macular degeneration, osteoarthritis and chronic pulmonary disease to name a few.
So what is an Antioxidant?
Simply put , an antioxidant is a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Often times you will hear antioxidants referred to as phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plant foods. It is true, some antioxidants are phytonutrients and vise-versa.
The trick is to find foods high in both antioxidants and phytonutrients. Where can we find such foods? You got it – fruits, vegetables and greens! These foods are packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants among other nutritional compounds. The richer the color, the greater its phytonutritional power; sometimes referred to as "ORAC" which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.
ORAC specifically measures the ability to absorb free radicals in the body. Free radicals have been linked to oxidative stress in the body which has been known to accelerate the aging process in cells, body tissue and blood vessels. Thus, the higher the ORAC score the higher its antioxidant strength.
You might be telling yourself: "Ah, I can get that with my over-the-counter multi-vitamin." Guess again, these powerful plant compounds are not found in vitamin capsules or pills. You have to eat the real deal and a whole lot of them if you want to see a noticeable impact on your health.
Here's where my promo of the "Green Smoothies" comes in! If you are not eating vegetarian and/or you are not drinking a green smoothie EVERY DAY, you are not getting enough anti-oxidants and phytonutrients! Key "smoothie" into the search box for some great recipes!