Free Radicals vs Antioxidants: What’s the Difference?

Scientifically speaking, a free radical is defined as any molecule that contains an unpaired electron in its atomic orbital. For this discussion, we are focusing upon the harmful effects that may result from free radicals being present within the human body. Free radicals can lodge themselves within the membranes of cells and disrupt the body’s ability to maintain a state of homeostasis. Antioxidants can help to restore health.

The Source of Free Radicals

We are exposed to free radicals from a variety of sources that originate from both internal and external origins. Internally, free radicals originate from metabolic processes within the human body such as respiration, energy production, and the inflammatory response pathway. Externally, free radicals can be found in air pollutants, cigarette smoke, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, radon, industrial chemicals, and lastly, the foods that we eat.

What are Antioxidants?

An antioxidant is a molecule stable enough to neutralize free radicals. Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, but we need additional antioxidants from our diet to effectively counterbalance the detrimental effects of free radicals. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet has stronger antioxidant activity than a diet that is primarily animal based. There are substantial antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. There are smaller amounts in meats, poultry, and fish.

Eating Healthy Food

When we satisfy our hunger with a meal that is made from high quality ingredients, we are eating functional food with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which are essential for good health. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans represent the simplest example of functional food. They provide the body with excellent nutrition, enzymes, and fiber to keep the physiological system operating at its very best.

Closing Thoughts

The cell damage done by free radicals is the cause of many chronic diseases that we see in the world today. Luckily, antioxidants can neutralize the effects of free radicals. Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, but it needs an additional supply from our diet in order to optimize our health. The richest source of antioxidants can be found in a plant-based diet that is abundant in fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.

 

Susan Kapatoes
C: 508-282-7877
E: susan@inspireyourjourney.com

 

The author, Susan Kapatoes, MHA is a nutritionist and founder of Inspire Your Journey, a holistic wellness company. Services include a BEMER Rental Program, and a full line of nutrition products by Amare Global

 

References

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Dagfinn Aune, NaNa Keum, Edward Giovannucci, Lars T Fadnes, Paolo Boffetta, Darren C Greenwood, Serena Tonstad, Lars J Vatten, Elio Riboli, Teresa Norat; Dietary intake and blood concentrations of antioxidants and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 108, Issue 5, 1 November 2018, Pages 1069–1091, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy097

Eldridge, MD, L. and Hughes, MD, G. (2018). What Exactly Are Free Radicals and Why Are They Important?. [online] Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/information-about-free-radicals-2249103

Naha N, Das M, Banerjee A (2018) Toxic Exposure and Life Style Factors on Ageing Brain Neurodegenerative Disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s: Role of Natural Antioxidants to Ameliorate the Condition. J Alcohol Drug Depend 6: 309. DOI: 10.4172/2329-6488.1000309

The Nutrition Source. (2018). Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype. [online] Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/#potential%20hazards%20of%20antioxidants

Rui Hai Liu; Health-Promoting Components of Fruits and Vegetables in the Diet, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 4, Issue 3, 1 May 2013, Pages 384S–392S, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.003517