Free Radicals: Where they Exist & How to Fight Against Damage: Part Two

Free Radicals: Where they Exist & How to Fight Against Damage: Part Two 


In Part Two of our Free Radicals article series, we cover where free radicals exist and how to fight against body damage that has already been done.  

Free radicals are uncharged molecules, which are typically highly reactive and short-lived, that have an unpaired valence electron. According to the Pharmacology Review, “reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species are generated by our body by various endogenous systems, exposure to different physiochemical conditions or pathological states” (Pharmacology Review).  

These free radicals can be toxic to the body but their natural production within the body is not abnormal or always negative. Free radicals contribute to the aging process and are an essential player in our human immune system. The body produces free radicals as byproducts of cellular reactions, metabolism of foods, breathing and other vital, autonomic functions. The liver also uses and produces free radicals for detoxification and white blood cells send free radicals to help destroy bacteria, viruses and damaged cells. 

Top Sources of Free Radicals 

What causes free radicals to proliferate? For the most part, the “Western lifestyle” with the processed foods, lack of healthy whole foods, heavy dependence on antibiotics and medications, use of alcohol and drugs, environmental pollutants, and extremely high and constant stress levels all work to build free radicals in the body. They are generated due to oxidation and when those toxins are broken down in the body. The liver also produces free radicals as it breaks down and removes compounds.  

The major sources of free radicals include: 

  • Ordinary body functions, such as breathing and digestion 
  • Exposure to radiation 
  • Exposure to other environmental pollutants 
  • Consumption of cigarettes or tobacco, drugs, and alcohol 
  • Certain medications or high use of antibiotics, which leads to antibiotic resistance 
  • A poor diet that includes foods like unhealthy fats, too much sugar, pesticides, herbicides or synthetic additives. Many processed and refined foods contain oxidized fats that add free radicals to the body. Excessive amounts of sugar and sweeteners are other sources of free radical growth that contribute to aging, weight gain and inflammation. 
  • Even too much exercise generates added free radicals 
  • High amounts of emotional or physical stress. Stress hormones can generate free radicals. 

The Best Ways to Fight against Free Radical Damage 

Follow these steps to help reduce your overall free radicals’ exposure and development. 

  • Start eating those food rich in antioxidants. The National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institute of Health, has made a scoring system to measure amounts of antioxidants in food. The scores given to specific foods are called the ORAC score. It stands for, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.  
  • Here are just some of the foods that have high ORAC scores.  
  • Brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash, or cantaloupe contain carotenoids that are beneficial for your skin and eyes. These antioxidant foods help reduce sunburn and wrinkles while protecting your vision. According to the International Dermal Institute, oxygen free radicals are implicated in the overall aging process and are responsible for photoaging, cancer and inflammation in the skin. Similarly, to orange veggies, citrus fruits contain a compound called quercetin. Spinach and other leafy greens like kale are high in lutein, and tomatoes and red peppers contain lycopene, all of which have anti-aging effects. 
  • Berries, grapes and red wine. These deeply hued fruits are some of the highest in antioxidants, such as resveratrol. A study in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry found berries an easy winner in the number of antioxidants for the price, especially when you buy the organic kinds frozen. As a bonus, berries also tend to be lower in sugar than other fruits and contain lots of fiber. 
  • Green and white tea. White and green teas are very minimally processed and contain less caffeine than coffee (or even other varieties of tea). They also contain a very high concentration of antioxidants called polyphenols that have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. 
  • Cocoa. A study from Seoul National University found that cocoa has a higher antioxidant content that green tea, black tea and even red wine. But you want to make sure the cocoa or dark chocolate you eat is very minimally processed, such as the kinds that are a high percentage of cocoa and labeled raw and organic. 
  • Herbs and spices. These include things like cinnamon, oregano, ginger, turmeric and rosemary. Additionally, essential oils made from the same plants can also be a great source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds. 

Eating antioxidant foods is a big step in the right direction on your journey to dealing with free radicals. By limiting your intake of pesticide and herbicide filled foods, avoiding too much sugar, refined oil or refined grains you will benefit. Using natural, cold-pressed oils like coconut or olive oil is best, because heat oxidizes fats in refined oils. Also make sure you are limiting your intake of antibiotic and hormone laden foods.  

  • Avoid toxins and pollutant exposure. Next to improving your diet, reducing your free radical damage is next on the list. Try these methods to help reduce your toxin load. 
  • Avoiding environmental pollutants in water 
  • Reducing chemical exposure in household and cosmetic products, such as by purchasing those that are natural and made from essential oils 
  • Avoiding overuse of medications and antibiotics 
  • Reducing stress in your life 
  • Regularly getting moderate amounts of exercise. Keep in mind that while being sedentary is not helping you to age any slower, either is overworking yourself. Exhaustion, mental fatigue and burnout also cause the immune system and body more damage. 
  • Reaching and maintain a healthy body weight 
  • Trying to normalize blood sugar and cholesterol levels to prevent diabetes, heart problems and blood pressure changes 

Read more about free radicals by checking out the other articles in our Free Radicals series.  


Resources Used: 

Reclaiming Intimacy 

National Institute on Aging 

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