In this guide, we explain what free radicals are, what negative effects they produce on our body, and how to know them and fight them.
Surely you have heard about it on TV or, perhaps, read in some health and wellness magazine. Yes, we are talking about them, free radicals. Let’s see exactly what it is.
Free Radicals: What Are They?
Those “nice” molecules that lack an electron and that are constantly looking for other cells thanks to which they can “regain the lost stability”. Do not be alarmed, although this “unpleasant” process is constantly active within our body, your body is able to counterbalance the negative effects. Unless the number of free radicals is far too high. What happens in this case? Cellular aging occurs which manifests itself with the formation of wrinkles and marks on the skin.
The production of free radicals is a natural physiological process that is necessary for the well-being of our body: they help eliminate pathogens from the body such as viruses and bacteria and stimulate the functions of the immune system.
So it can be said that adequate production of free radicals is essential for our well-being and to keep the human body healthy. The problem arises when too many free radicals are produced.
The other thing to know is that several studies show that this ability to self-protect begins to lose its effectiveness after 35 years of age. A reduction in the internal production of antioxidants would no longer be able to hinder the side effects caused by an excess of free radicals.
But what are these negative effects? There are many studies in this regard and the results are certainly not reassuring: cancer, obesity, cataracts, Parkinson’s disease, aging …
Why Do Free Radicals Increase?
Now we will see what are the causes that can favor the increase in the number of free radicals present in your body.
Schematically, we can separate environmental factors from endogenous factors.
Among the first, we can include atmospheric pollution, the use of drugs, alcohol, and medicines, and situations of intense and prolonged psycho-physical stress. And, again, exposure to ultraviolet rays or ionizing radiation.
Among the endogenous factors, the transport of electrons in the mitochondria (aerobic production of energy), the beta-oxidation reactions within the body (ie when we metabolize fatty acids) and the metabolization of various toxic substances must be mentioned.
Free Radicals How To Fight Them
The formation of free radicals can be fought, but not stopped. For example, they fight through antioxidants, which are taken through food and therefore foods rich in vitamins such as A, C, and E of beta-carotene or selenium, or through a healthy life, free of smoke, alcohol, and with a good amount of motor activity. Nutrition plays a very important role in combating free radicals.
Here are some tips related to nutrition and the conduct of a healthy lifestyle that can help limit its production and therefore the negative effects associated with it.
Nutrition Against Free Radicals
Nutrition is the basis of good health of the organism for this reason it must be taken care of in particular by providing the body with the substances it really needs. To fight free radicals you need to take care of what you eat: the foods have to perform an antioxidant function, let’s see what they are.
Some of the main substances with antioxidant action are found in fresh food. Let’s see which ones.
Fat-soluble Vitamin E is found
- in vegetable oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil
- in dried fruit such as walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds
- in avocado
- in wheat germ
- in whole grains
Vitamin E is able to prevent bad cholesterol or LDL from oxidizing, thus avoiding the hardening of the arteries responsible for many cardiovascular diseases
They are rich in this vitamin
- citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, mandarins, lemons
- sour fruit such as kiwis
- the currants
- the raspberries
It is also present in green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, peppers, and chilies.
They are a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments found mainly in fruit and vegetables such as
In particular, carotenoids in synergy with vitamin E and selenium can prevent the peroxidation of cell membrane fats by preventing the formation of free radicals.
Lycopene, present in tomatoes, is a substance that is part of the carotenoid family and has an antioxidant action particularly useful in preventing prostate cancer. Furthermore, Lycopene protects the skin from UV rays even during prolonged exposure to the sun.
There are over 4000 different species of polyphenols in nature and are among the main ones responsible for the colors of fruit and vegetables. Polyphenols are therefore present in all brightly colored fruit and vegetables, let’s talk about
Each plant contains a different combination of phenolic compounds such as flavonoids. Other foods such as green tea (epicatechins), red wine (resveratrol), and chocolate are also rich in them.
The phenolic compounds particularly endowed with antioxidant properties are quercetin, epicatechin, resveratrol, and anthocyanins which help the body protect itself from heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and premature aging.
Present in good quantities in fish, meat, and dairy products. Selenium is a mineral that acts to prevent fat peroxidation of cell membranes, especially if it works in synergy with vitamin E. Selenium serves to strengthen the immune system, protect the skin, eyes, and hair, and regulate the function of the thyroid.
Copper can be introduced into the body through food. It can be found in the
- fresh salmon
- barley and oats both in grains and in the form of flour
- in lentils
- in wheat germ
- in peanuts
- hazelnuts, walnuts, and raisins.
Avocado is also rich in it which is among other things a very useful food not only for copper but also for the high content of omega 3, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamin E. Copper is also found in mollusks as long as they are fresh and prepared with rapid cooking using also the cooking liquid so as not to lose the minerals contained in it.
It is a mineral that has the function of making iron assimilable but is also able to stimulate the production of collagen and therefore prevent skin wrinkles.
Free Radicals And Skin Aging
The production of free radicals causes aging of the skin and in general, aging of the body which can lead to health problems.
In particular, skin aging can be due to:
- the situation of oxidative stress due to an unhealthy environment
- air pollution
- excessive exposure to sunlight
- smoking and alcohol abuse
These factors, in fact, stimulate the production of free radicals and cause the deterioration of collagen and elastin.
Externally, antioxidant cosmetic products can be applied that contain vitamin C, vitamin E, polyphenols, enzymes, and minerals.
Among the natural remedies recommended for combating free radicals, we want to remember the aloe vera that can be taken both as a cream or gel to be applied on the skin and as a food supplement in liquid form.
Aloe vera has excellent counteracts sun rashes and dermatitis has antiseptic and antibiotic properties and the minerals it contains are able to carry out antioxidant actions that actively counteract free radicals and cellular aging.
Free Radicals And Sports
During physical exercise, oxygen consumption can increase by up to 20 times compared to a normal situation.
The increase in the flow of oxygen, especially in the muscles, is essential to meet energy demands but also significantly increases the production of oxidizing agents.
In case of poor physical preparation, excessive physical activity can cause the production of free radicals that exceeds the body’s defense capabilities. This causes damage to the muscle cells causing the typical post-workout pain.
On the contrary, regular sporting activity suitable for the age and athletic training causes an increase in the endogenous defenses against free radicals: this is why carrying out the right sporting activity keeps you young!