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What Are Free Radicals?

If you’ve ever heard the term “free radical” and wondered what it meant—and why free radicals are bad for you—you’re not alone. 

Simply put, free radicals are unstable forms of atoms, the tiny building blocks of all matter. An atom consists of a core orbited by even tinier particles called electrons. Not having a full set of electrons makes the atom unstable; this means the atom is always looking to bond with other atoms in an effort to find the electrons it needs.

It’s this reactivity that makes an atom a free radical.

Within the body, this reactivity can cascade into a chain reaction that damages tissues and organs. That’s what makes free radicals problematic.

Where Do Free Radicals Come From?

Free radicals can arise from such outside sources as cigarette smoke, pollution and radiation. But they are also created by the body itself, from the process by which cells use oxygen to create energy.

At low levels, free radicals are actually beneficial, helping cells develop properly and playing other useful roles.

At higher concentrations, however, free radicals start becoming destructive. This sets the stage for a phenomenon known asoxidative stress.

What Is Oxidative Stress?

Oxidative stress, in which the creation of free radicals continues unchecked, can damage cell membranes, lipids (fats), proteins and DNA.

Over time, this damage may promote disease development. What’s more, scientists believe this process also contributes to the signs of advancing age, such as wrinkles and graying hair.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

What Fights Oxidative Stress?

Making lifestyle changes is the best way to overcome the effects of oxidative stress.

The first step is to lessen the effects of outside factors that encourage free radical production.

Not smoking is crucial, as is avoiding alcohol usage. It helps to avoid air pollution and to eat organic foods (and use organic personal care products) whenever possible. And you should avoid fried foods, which can also promote the creation of free radicals.

The second step is to engage in physical activity on a consistent basis.

Playing weekend warrior after spending five days on the couch is a bad idea, since that may produce more free radicals than your body can cope with.

However, exercising frequently appears to enhance the body's ability to cope with the free radicals that being active produces, thus reducing your overall levels of oxidative stress.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

It appears that reducing psychological stress offers another way to lessen the harm caused by excessive free radicals.

Research has found a link between emotional stress and increased markers of oxidative stress within the body.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner. Exercise helps lower stress levels, as do meditation, spending time in nature and talking with friends.

Diet forms the backbone of any free radical defense plan. One reason: Many foods contain substances called antioxidants.

What Are Antioxidants?

Not surprisingly, the body doesn’t just allow oxidative stress to occur unchecked. It employs substances, known asantioxidants, that donate electrons to free radicals, shutting down the oxidative process.

Because there are many different types of free radicals, the body contains many different types of antioxidants.

However, many factors, such as poor diet and pollution exposure, can produce more free radicals than the body can neutralize. That’s one reason to eat foods such as fresh produce and whole grains, which contain various antioxidants.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

What Is ORAC?

There is a way to measure the effectiveness of antioxidants found in foods.

Known asoxygen radical absorbance capacity, or ORAC, it involves placing food samples in test tubes along with substances that promote oxidation and other substances that are vulnerable to oxidation’s effects.

The less free radical damage, the higher the food’s antioxidant capacity and the higher its ORAC value.

You may know that blueberries, for example, have a high ORAC score.

But two foods that are among the ORAC champs may surprise you: cocoa powder, clocking in at nearly 81,000 ORAC per 100 grams (according to the US Department of Agriculture)...and ground cinnamon, at more than 267,000 ORAC. So go ahead and enjoy that hot chocolate with cinnamon!

The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described. The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.

The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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