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Free Radicals Explained: Why Antioxidants are Amazing

WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?

Free Radicals are basically damaged cells that have succumbed to oxidation. Although oxygen is indeed a vital component for cell metabolism and energy creation, it's highly unstable. Once the oxygen de-stabilizes, it goes on a rampage to bind with (or steal from) any other molecule that has a chance in hell to stabilize it. Think of a bull in a china shop.

At any given time, our body is decomposing and regenerating. When free radicals run amok we decompose faster. Sounds creepy but when these molecules are damaged, they not only seek out other molecules to bind with but they destroy everything in their path along the way, damaging DNA, which can't readily be regenerated. This not only creates a disease environment for us, but our all-important DNA gets damaged . Damaged DNA is often referred to as "mutated" meaning that it grows and reproduces abnormally.

In other words, not only can free radicals precipitate dreaded diseases like cancer or heart disease but this free-radical-induced-mutated DNA is then passed on to our children and our childrens' children. Ever heard someone refer to their genetic predisposition for hypertension or cancer? Someone up the chain got some broken molecules messing up their DNA map and this junk got handed down to the kids.

Said another way:

Hydrogen Peroxide is an example of a free radical. A free radical works by causing the oxidation of another atom. Free radicals are highly reactive because they are missing an electron. They will take that electron from any plant, human, or animal atom in a cell. That atom is then missing an electron and becomes a free radical itself. When any compound has the suffix -oxide in it, that usually hints that it is a free radical and would be considered basic on the pH scale. (Wiki Answers)

WHY ARE ANTIOXIDANTS AMAZING?

Antioxidants are molecules that prevent other molecules from oxidizing. They provide the electron which is missing from the free radicals, thereby stopping or delaying the death-disease process. Want to live longer? Reverse diabetes or heart disease or cancer? Amazing antioxidants are our nutritional superheroes!

3 PRIMARY TYPES OF ANTIOXIDANTS VITAMIN C: Berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green, or yellow peppers, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes. VITAMIN E: Broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard, turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, sunflower seedsBETACAROTENE: Apricots, beets, cantalope, carrots, corn, kale, mangoes, greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumplin, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, broccoli

TOP ANTIOXIDANT FOODS

All of the above foods are loaded with antioxidants, but if you're looking for the most bang per serving then please refer to this Web MD blog which feaatures a graph of the USDA's ranking of top antioxidant foods. It's important to note that this list takes into consideration antioxidant concentrations as well as which foods scored the highest antioxidant capacity per serving size. Here are the top twenty:

  1. Small red beans
  2. Wild blueberries
  3. Red kidney beans
  4. Pinto beans
  5. Cultivated blueberries
  6. Cranberries
  7. Artichokes
  8. Blackberries
  9. Prunes
  10. Rasberries
  11. Strawberries
  12. Red delicious apples
  13. Granny smith apples
  14. Pecans
  15. Sweet cherries
  16. Black plums
  17. Russet potatoes
  18. Black beans
  19. Plums
  20. Gala apples

More reasons to eat the colors of the rainbow!

~Dinneen