Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body because they react so easily with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation. They can be beneficial or harmful.
Antioxidants are molecules that will gladly donate an electron to a free radical without making themselves unstable to save the body. This causes the free radical to stabilize and become less reactive.
Oxidation is a normal and necessary process that takes place in your body. Oxidative stress, on the other hand, occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. When functioning properly, free radicals can help fight off pathogens. Pathogens lead to infections.
When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body.
Proteins, lipids, and DNA make up a large part of your body, so that damage can lead to a vast number of diseases and issues over time, including diabetes, atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels), inflammatory conditions, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, cancer, and premature aging.
Culprits that cause and exasperate free radicals include pollution, pesticides and cleaners, cigarette smoke, radiation, simple carbohydrates and sugary foods, processed foods, saturated fats, excess caffeine and alcohol, and high stress.
It’s impossible to completely avoid free radical exposure and oxidative stress. However, there are things you can do to minimize the effects of oxidative stress on your body. The main thing you can do is to increase your levels of antioxidants and decrease your formation of free radicals.
One method of preventing oxidative stress is to ensure that you’re obtaining enough antioxidants in your diet and eating seasonally. Consuming three to five servings per day of a variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way to provide your body what it needs to produce antioxidants. Best choices include berries, cherries, citrus fruits, prunes, dark leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and olives. Other examples of dietary antioxidant sources include fish and nuts, garlic, onion, vitamin C and E, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, green tea, and melatonin.
Certain lifestyle choices can also prevent or reduce oxidative stress including having a regular, moderate exercise routine. Exercise has been associated with higher natural antioxidant levels and decreased damage caused by oxidative stress; as well as, fewer effects of aging, and a decreased risk of disease and cancer.
Be aware of pollutants. Do not smoke and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, as well. Use caution with chemicals. This includes cleaning chemicals, avoiding unnecessary radiation exposure, and being aware of other sources of chemical exposure, such as pesticides used on food or in gardening. Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen prevents ultraviolet light damage to your skin.
Decrease your alcohol intake and get plenty of pure sleep. Ample sleep is very important for maintaining balance in all of your body systems. Brain function, hormone production, antioxidant and free radical balance, and a host of other things are impacted by sleep.
Avoid overeating. Studies have shown that overeating and constant eating keep your body in a state of oxidative stress more often than if you eat at appropriately spaced intervals and eat small or moderate portions.
Try this seasonal antioxidant recipe for your best health, beauty, and anti-aging:
- 2 lbs. Carrots, peeled & coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
- 2 Cups Milk of choice
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 2 Teaspoons Grated Fresh Ginger (or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger)
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
Bring carrots and milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until carrots are tender. Stir in sugar, ginger, salt, and cinnamon. Transfer mixture to a blender, reserving 1/2 cup. Add butter and orange zest to carrot mixture, and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add reserve, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process to desired consistency. Serve immediately or chilled. Refrigerate up to 3 days. Makes 8 servings.