W hat is a free radical?
Essentially it is a highly reactive, uncharged molecule having an unpaired valence electron (it pains me greatly to say this, given how much I loathed chemistry in nutrition school and swore it was the most needless information that I would never call upon to use!) Keep reading, it gets clearer and will make more sense, I promise.
What causes free radicals?
They are produced in the body upon exposure to stress, toxins such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, pesticides on foods, consumption of rancid fats, radiation from the sun, etc. Free radicals cause oxidative damage in the body.
Some of these things are unavoidable and it is just part of life to have some free radicals in the body. But if allowed to multiply and flourish, free radicals cause oxidative damage to cells; leading to the breakdown of and interference with the normal ways cells function in our bodies.
What is an Antioxidant?
Anything that counteracts or detoxifies the harmful effects of free radicals is an antioxidant. Natural antioxidants include ginger, onion, garlic, berries and dark leafy greens. Vitamins A, C, E and minerals selenium and zinc are all antioxidants so foods rich in these nutrients have antioxidant properties. Stress management is also antioxidant, as the biochemical and hormonal changes that stress causes in the body creates free radicals.