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Free Radicals – What Are They – Should I Be Concerned?

Free Radicals - What Are They - Should I Be Concerned?

Free radicals are unstable molecules with extra “free” electrons looking for a connection. If an electron is unpaired, another atom or molecule can easily bond to it, causing a chemical reaction. They can then latch onto a cell membrane or blood vessel lining and may create constant inflammation, leading to eventual damage, serious disease, and even to an early death in some cases. Damage caused by the “stress” of excessive numbers of free radicals in the body accumulates with age. Many scientists are convinced that early aging and chronic health problems (cancer, heart disease, thrombosis, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.) are initiated by free radical damage. They then take years to develop.




Free radicals in the body have been proven contribute to:

  • Damage cholesterol-carrying particles,
  • May increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
  • Contribute to the formation of blood clots,
  • May increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke,
  • Damage a cell’s genetic material (DNA),
  • May lead to cancer,
  • Trigger inflammation,
  • Suppress the immune system,
  • Impair cell function,
  • Start, and extend, the aging process.

Other types of tissue breakdown attributed to free radicals can lead to inflammatory disease, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic nerve pain, neuropathy, colds, and other chronic illnesses. These now common diseases and virtually all cancers can be traced to free radicals. Common sources of excess free radicals in the human body today are cigarette smoke, air pollution, pesticides,herbicides, overexposure to the sun, automobile exhaust, radiation, smog, stress, rancid foods, food contaminants, excessive physical activity and a myriad of other factors that are part of our western lifestyles.

How To Reduce Free Radicals?

Fortunately, the body comes equipped with an antioxidant defense system. Antioxidants are molecules that can safely interact with free radicals and stop the chain reaction from continuing or even starting. Antioxidants are nutrients which donate extra hydrogen electrons to free radicals, thus neutralizing them and producing stable molecules. Antioxidant molecules are able to give up extra electrons without turning into free radicals themselves, thus halting this harmful process. There are many enzymes that can be part of an antioxidant defense system. But when too many of those problematic molecules from our toxic environment overwhelm our naturally existing antioxidants, oxidative stress chain reactions will break through the overwhelmed antioxidant defense system. Many of those protective free radical scavenging enzymes depend on support from micronutrient minerals such as selenium and vitamins E, C, and beta-carotene. Those nutrients are not manufactured by the body, so they must be supplied by food and/or supplements. Using antioxidants is one of the best ways to help protect your body against dangerous free radicals in the body, which can lead to health problems and disease. The body is a “closed system”. Its well-being depends solely on what is eaten. If you don’t feed it what it needs you will have health problems, and most health problems start with free radicals.

What Are Good Sources of Antioxidants?

Antioxidants come in a wide range of foods but basically all fruits and vegetables contain abundant amounts of antioxidants. Not all are created equal however and there are some that are more abundant than others. These are some of the best food sources for antioxidants;

Rank Food item Serving size Total antioxidant capacity per serving size
1 Small Red Bean (dried) Half cup 13,727
2 Wild blueberry 1 cup 13,427
3 Red kidney bean (dried) Half cup 13,259
4 Pinto bean Half cup 11,864
5 Blueberry (cultivated) 1 cup 9,019
6 Cranberry 1 cup (whole) 8,983
7 Artichoke (cooked) 1 cup (hearts) 7,904
8 Blackberry 1 cup 7,701
9 Prune Half cup 7,291
10 Raspberry 1 cup 6,058
11 Strawberry 1 cup 5,938
12 Red Delicious apple 1 whole 5,900
13 Granny Smith apple 1 whole 5,381
14 Pecan 1 ounce 5,095
15 Sweet cherry 1 cup 4,873
16 Black plum 1 whole 4,844
17 Russet potato (cooked) 1 whole 4,649
18 Black bean (dried) Half cup 4,181
19 Plum 1 whole 4,118
20 Gala apple 1 whole 3,903

So to ensure proper defense against free radicals in the body and their disease causing effects, ensure you are consuming plenty of antioxidant rich foods and perhaps consider adding an antioxidant supplement to your daily diet. Until next time, be well.

Craig Hitchens – MST & Holistic Naturopath

Sources: My own clinical knowledge.


Alternative & Natural Health Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of posting but may change thereafter. The information provided on the various natural health subjects from this website of  is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as any form of medical advice. The information in the article this disclaimer is linked from is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always check with your health professional before taking any products or following any advice that you believe may conflict with other forms of health care. Always consult your health care professional before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed. Certain herbs and holistic remedies are unsuitable to take if you are pregnant or nursing and must always be cleared by your health professional before use.


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