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Healthy Articles

Protect Yourself From Free Radicals

September 27, 2012

free radicals

Written By: Nelson Narciso, DNM®

After a long winter hibernation, summer brings with it a renewed sense of vitality and the desire to be outdoors and active. With this increase in activity comes an increase on the physical demands we place on our bodies and, in turn, an increase in free radical production.

What Are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are reactive compounds that we produce both naturally and are exposed too in our environment through chemicals in our food, water and air. When these free radicals come in contact with our cells they can damage or kill them. In fact, free radicals have been associated with more than one hundred diseases. Exercise has been shown to significantly increase free radical levels and induce varying degrees of DNA damage. Add to this the increased stress of exercising when the air quality is less than desirable from smog and other airborne contaminants. Fortunately numerous vitamins (E, C, folic acid, B12), minerals (zinc, selenium) and numerous phytonutrients all found in fruits and vegetables have been shown to protect our cells and DNA from this damage.

Although free radical production is a natural process we all experience the concern lies in how many we produce and are exposed to as well as how effectively our bodies can neutralize them. Exercise not only increases our free radical production directly by the natural process of respiration (breathing) but with increased respiration comes an increase in inhaled airborne contaminants many of which are free radicals themselves. Unless kept in check excessive free radical production and exposure can impact athletic performance, speed up the ageing process, increase the risk of a heart attack, disrupt immune function and cause genetic mutations to cells that can then become cancerous.

In fact free radicals have been implicated in many of today’s common afflictions. Even conditions that you might not associate with free radical production like crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and chronic fatigue syndrome have been linked. The job of neutralizing free radicals goes to antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from the destructive nature of free radicals and for this very reason it is critical that we consume antioxidant rich foods and supplements. Tufts University developed a test for measuring the antioxidant capacity of foods and supplements called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). The higher the ORAC score of that food or supplement the more free radicals can be neutralized. Scientists recommend we get between 3000 - 5000 ORAC units daily from our foods and supplements.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Controlling free radicals is one important strategy in maintaining healthy cellular function another is maintaining optimal cellular pH (pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the body). Acid-base metabolism is something our bodies try to very tightly control. Metabolic acidosis is more often than not due to dietary imbalances, overconsumption of processed junk foods and the under consumption of alkalizing foods like fruits and vegetables. Being overly acidic can also be influenced by intense exercise to the point of overtraining.

So how are we to control free radicals while at the same time regulate acid base levels? The answer lies in having more fruits and vegetables. Sadly most of us only consume a fraction of the fruits and vegetables we all know we should. In fact on average we are only consuming 1/3 of the recommended daily intake suggested by nutritionists.

Not getting enough fruits & vegetables? Here's what we recommend:

VegeGreens and PhytoBerry are two remarkable superfood powders that alongside a more balanced diet can help remedy this problem.

  The Whole Body Antioxidant PhytoBerry

 

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