Friday, August 12, 2011

Free Radicals

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.
~Garrison Keillor
Free Radicals sounds like a leftist rallying cry, "Free the Radical 8". But inside the human body you don't want radicals roaming free. Radicals are atoms or molecules which lack one or more electrons which would complete atomic orbital shells. They grab an electron from some molecule in your body which then becomes a radical itself and grabs from someone else in a chain reaction until the process is halted by an antioxidant. An antioxidant can give away an electron and not become radicalized itself.

Free radicals are blamed for aging, DNA mutation and causing cancer. So some people think they'll be healthier taking massive doses of antioxidants. But the story is not so simple. Some radicals are needed - the immune system uses radicals to destroy infections and invaders. Overdosing on antioxidants could weaken your own self-defenses.

Many antioxidants you consume in a pill won't help. The body regulates its level of vitamin C and most of a massive intake will just pass through the body and be pissed away. You may have better luck with Vitamin E being stored in the body where it can do some good.

Natural sources of antioxidants include Carotenes and Flavonoids. Carotene gives carrots their orange color. Flavonoids give bright colors to other fruits and vegetables. At salad bars I now pick items of different colors to enrich my salad. This includes bright red beets which I would not normally eat but, hey, what else provides that unique color?

Bottom Line

If you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors, your diet is naturally rich in thousands of antioxidants and you should not need to boost it.

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