Imagine that inside your body, there are a bunch of little monsters carrying hammers. And these monsters decide they do not like you, so they begin beating away at your DNA and cell membrane. Because of this, your cells are now damaged and this has opened the pathway for diseases. In essence, this is what free radicals do to our body. Instead of little monsters though, they are actually groups of atoms with an odd number of electrons. If you can recall from chemistry (one of my favorite subjects), electrons like to be in pairs. Whenever an atom has an unpaired electron, it goes crazy trying to find another electron to pair up with. Because these atoms often times can not find a free electron, they bounce around our body and damage our DNA and the cell membrane. Now one unpaired electron may not cause much damage, but what about a large number of them? To put it in perspective, imagine a 3 followed by 23 zeros. This is what it would look like:
300 million,000,000,000,000,000,000. It is believed that this is the number of free radicals an average person has in their body. Now, imagine that many atoms (three hundred sextillion) damaging our cells constantly.
You may be telling yourself, “Okay that's bad, but how do they get in my body?”
Lucky for you, all you have to do is follow these three simple tips, and I can ensure you will not have any free radicals! First, do not eat anything. Second, do not consume any liquid. And finally, do not breathe! Not as easy as it sounds right? The unfortunate truth is that whenever we eat, drink, or even breathe, our bodies take in pollution. This pollution comes from oxidation in the air such as when an engine rumors or fruit goes bad. And whenever we consume any food, or breathe in air, we are being exposed to this oxidation. That oxidation is the driving force behind free radicals being released in our body.
Now that we know what they are and how we get them, how can we stop them?
First, I should point out, that the free radical number is different in everyone. For example, the number increases for anyone who smokes or drinks regularly. So, all you have to do is exercise and eat healthy, right? WRONG. What's even more surprising is that people who exercise fortimes breathe heavy, and consume 10-20 times more oxygen than those who do not. Which means that those exercise receive more oxidation in their body and their number drastically increases.
If exercising does not help, then what does?
One way in which we can reduce the number of free radicals is to consume antioxidants. Antioxidants are typically found in foods such as dark chocolate, blueberries, cranberries, apples, black plums, black beans, etc. What is the problem with this? Well, for starters, antioxidants can only reduce free radicals on a one to one basis. This means that if you consume one antioxidant serving, you get rid of one free radical. Now, even if I consumed 100 servings of blueberries, would I even be making a dent in the free radical number? Unfortunately, the answer is no. If you take away 100 from three hundred sextillion, you basically still have three hundred sextillion. Lucky for us, there are alternative methods out there to decrease the number of free radicals we have! When utilizing these other methods, we are able to not only reduce the number, but we are able to keep our cells healthy, and possibly prevent diseases from coming into our body.