5 Free-Radical-Fighting Food Weapons
I’m going to get a little science-y on you today. You’ve likely heard of free radicals. The skin-care people love to tout their ability to fight them. But what are they?
You’ve probably seen oxidation every day. It happens when you cut an apple and leave the flesh exposed to air; it turns brown. The formation of rust is also oxidation in action. It’s a process that occurs when certain types of molecules meet oxygen.
Oxidation also happens in the body, and it’s totally normal. But when normal oxidation is accelerated in the body by stress, by drinking alcohol or smoking, or by environmental factors, our bodies can form molecules called free radicals. These molecules are little mutants, containing an odd number of electrons. These guys are very unstable, and they react easily with other molecules.
Free radicals aren’t just produced in the body. You’ll also find them in foods, and in the air, where factors like pollution can help make even more of these potentially damaging molecules.
Why are they damaging?
Free radicals can set off a chain of events in the body. On the less dire side, they can be responsible for prematurely aging skin. But they can also help kick-off the formation of plaque in your arteries, and can interfere and damage your DNA. That can cause cells to malfunction contributing to any number of diseases.
What are some of the symptoms/effects of free radical damage?
- Prematurely aging skin
- Degenerative disorders (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s)
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic inflammation and joint pain
- Inability to lose weight
- Skin problems, eczema, psoriasis
- Constant fatigue or lethargy
- Allergies or asthma
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
What to Eat About It?
Here’s where antioxidants come in. Remember the oxidation process that can create free radicals? Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by “giving” them an extra electron, making the unstable molecules now stable, and limiting their damaging effect. So antioxidants help mitigate the negative domino effect from excess free radicals and protect the cell membranes from oxidative damage.
The USDA has created a national database of foods that have been tested for their antioxidant capacity (measured as a food’s “ORAC” score). Foods with high ORAC scores are nature’s prescription to fight against the damaging effects of free radicals. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, quercetin, resveratrol and anthocyanins (amongst many others found in foods), can have powerful effects on boosting your body’s ability to naturally squash those free radicals!
My Top 5 Free-Radical-Fighting Weapons:
- Fight back with my Metabolism Free Radicals. I’ve created this targeted blend of antioxidants to boost the body’s anti-inflammatory response. This formulated blend of berry extracts, white willow bark, and 5-loxin, contains targeted antioxidants that have been researched and proven to provide significant reductions in inflammatory markers in the body.
- Power up with power berries. Cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, goji berries, and elderberries contain well-known antioxidants like quercetin, anthocyanins, and resveratrol. This diverse pool of antioxidants can help to fight off free radicals, protect cellular damage and improve cell function. Try a Berry Almond Butter Smoothie or Grilled Chicken Blueberry Salad for a tasty new way to power up your anti-inflammatory response.
- Clear free radicals with vitamin C rich foods. Red bell peppers, citrus foods (lemon, lime, grapefruit), apples and kiwi are rich in the antioxidant vitamin C. This water-soluble antioxidant has an extra ‘donor’ electron that helps to neutralize unstable free radicals. Vitamin C has been shown in countless research studies to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and atherosclerosis. Try my delicious Stuffed Pepper Soup or my Apple Pineapple Crisp.
- Turn your kitchen into a secret weapon with herbs & spices. Fresh and dried herbs are high in antioxidants. Try cinnamon in your oatmeal, or oregano, rosemary and thyme on your roasted vegetables, or turmeric in a stir-fry. Try parsley or basil in salads or mint in a refreshing drink.
- Squash free radicals with legumes and beans. Black beans and kidney beans have especially high ORAC scores (a measure of a food’s antioxidant capacity and activity). I love adding beans to my famous turkey chili or even as a refreshing bean salad.
I hope you enjoyed your science lesson and are excited to start using your food and kitchen as a means to start fighting back against free radicals!