You could never, and would never want to, eliminate all free radicals from your body. Free radicals are simply one way that chemical reactions take place in the body. Our health depends on free radical chemical reactions, and we literally could not survive without the formation and activity of free radicals. It would also be literally impossible for us to prevent their formation in the body.
The situation with free radicals is similar to the situation with all body chemicals. We need the right amount in the right place at the right time: too little or too much is usually a problem, in the wrong place is usually a problem, at the wrong time is usually a problem. All of these basic principles apply directly to free radicals. When there are too many near a cell membrane, they will over-react with that membrane and usually cause damage. If there are not enough inside a cell, the cell will become unable to perform its necessary metabolism.
Many, but not all free radicals involve oxygen. It's fairly easy for a person to place stress on his or her oxygen metabolism. Any time we are out of shape, and have difficultly exercising and stay winded, we are challenging our oxygen metabolism because our breathing and our circulatory system can't keep up. Any time we eat large amounts of fried food—or simply high fat food—we can also challenge our oxygen metabolism because fat digestion, absorption, and transport require oxygen metabolism to work properly. When our oxygen metabolism is challenged, a common term used to describe this situation is "oxidative stress." When we are under oxidative stress, we tend to form excessive amounts of free radicals. You can see from the above scenario that getting into good shape by exercising, building the vitality of your respiratory system and circulatory system, and avoiding fried foods and high-fat foods are all good ways to reduce your risk of oxidative stress and free radical formation.
To prevent excessive amounts of free radicals from over-reacting with our cells and body tissue, it helps to have a plentiful supply of "antioxidant" nutrients. The word"antioxidant" refers to the ability of some nutrients to balance and regulate our oxygen metabolism. One role of antioxidants is called "quenching" or "neutralizing" free radicals. Antioxidant nutrients include vitamins A, C, E, and the minerals zinc, selenium, manganese and others. Additionally, exciting areas of research have shown that certain special nutrients only found in plants (phytonutrients) may hold some of the greatest promise as antioxidants. Many of these are the pigments that give foods their coloration. For example, one carotenoid phytonutrient called lycopene helps give tomatoes their red color, and the flavonoid phytonutrients called anthocyanins help give berries their deep red and purple color. If you've heard that it is important to eat a wide array of colorful foods, this is one of the major reasons why.
Eating a diet composed of a spectrum of different colored fresh fruits and vegetables would be a practice you could implement to optimize your antioxidant intake and protect against free radical formation in this way. It's also possible for processed and pre-packaged foods to increase your risk of oxidative stress. That's because processing and pre-packaging often results in the depositing of toxic residues into food. These toxic residues can include pesticides, heavy metals, and chemical solvents, and all of these residues have the potential to increase oxidative stress. Artificial preservatives, colorings, and flavorings can also be problematic in exactly this same way. So if you are looking to reduce free radical activity, we would also suggest buying organic foods whenever possible and reducing your exposure to toxic residues and to artificial preservatives, colorings and flavorings. Of course, all of the principles of a whole, natural foods meal plan (like the Healthiest Way of Eating we advocate at the World's Healthiest Foods) would also apply to the goal of free radical balancing. Your body needs as wide and plentiful variety of nutrients as possible in order to stay vital and balance oxygen metabolism along with its other activities.
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