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Oxidative stress occurs when the production of harmful molecules called free radicals is beyond the protective capability of the antioxidant defenses. Free radicals are chemically active molecular fragments that have a charge due to an excess or deficient number of electrons. Examples of free radicals are the super oxide anion, hydroxyl radical, transition metals such as iron and copper, nitric acid, and ozone. Free radicals containing oxygen, known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), are the most biologically significant free radicals. ROS include the radicals super oxide and hydroxyl radical, plus derivatives of oxygen that do not contain unpaired electrons, such as hydrogen peroxide, single oxygen, and hypochlorous acid.

It is impossible to avoid damage by free radicals. Free radicals can arise both inside (endogenous) and outside (exogenous) our bodies. Endogenous oxidants that develop from processes within our bodies form as a result of normal aerobic respiration, metabolism, and inflammation. Exogenous or from environmental factors include pollution, sunlight, strenuous exercise, X-rays, smoking and alcohol that contribute to the free radicals.

Free radicals are highly unstable because they have one or more unpaired electrons,. They enter our body to take one or two electrons or donate electrons, thereby damaging cells, proteins, and DNA (genetic material). The same oxidative process also causes oils to become rancid, peeled apples to turn brown, and iron to rust.

These free radicals contain atoms with unpaired electrons. An unpaired electron has a tremendous pull on the atoms of other cells causing these cells to become disrupted, this can cause a chain reaction resulting in many aging problems. This aging is like oxidation of the body similar to metal rust.

In our health they play an important role in preventing the cancer and heart diseases.

Many elderly people, especially those who have reduced their food intake, frequent aspirin users, heavy drinkers, smokers, and people with impaired immune systems may benefit from taking antioxidant supplements daily. In terms of heart disease and stroke, it is possible that higher levels of antioxidants slow or prevent the development of arterial blockages, a complicated process involving the oxidation of cholesterol. Moreover, antioxidants may prevent the collection of plaque on arterial walls.

It is a well-known fact that vitamin and mineral supplements should never be used as substitutes for a healthy, well balanced diet! It is also important to note if we take an excess of vitamin and mineral supplements than the daily-recommended value we can over supplement our bodies. Vitamins A and E are fat soluble, meaning that excess amounts are stored in the liver and fatty tissues, instead of being quickly excreted, creating a risk of toxicity. A diet rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains is the best to eat. Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, cantaloupe, and mangoes are great sources of antioxidants.

Free radicals found in the environment are toxic to our body and are found in great abundance in our environment – air pollution, processed foods, pesticides, cigarette smoke, etc. – there’s no escaping them! Millions of free radicals are also synthesized in the body when we exercise. Superoxide free radicals, hydroperoxides and hydroxyl free radicals produced during cellular energy processes act like shrapnel, damaging every muscle cell they contact. This is the source of the muscle soreness and weakness that accompanies heavy training sessions.

The damaging effects of environmental and exercise induced free radicals may be reduced by taking a comprehensive antioxidant formula. Make sure the antioxidant one chooses should contain: Vitamin A, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and selenium

The destructive effect of free radicals are responsible for more than 60 diseases including Allergies, Arthritis, Attention Deficit Disorder, Cataracts, Cold fingers and toes from circulatory problems, Diabetes, Edemas, Hardening or Narrowing of the Arteries and High Blood Pressure (Oxidation of Cholesterol causing plaque in the vessel walls), Heart Disease, Inflammation, Kidney and Liver disorders, Parkinson’s Disease, Prostate Enlargement, Rheumatism, Stroke, Ulcers, Varicose Veins and Wrinkles. Oxidation is very important in the chain to break down waste minerals, dead plants and dead animals and for regeneration. Antioxidants stop it starting before we actually die.

Some minerals also function as potent antioxidant free radical scavengers. Free radicals are highly reactive chemical substances in our bodies that if left unchecked can lead to premature aging and disease, such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidant minerals such as selenium have the power to neutralize free radicals before cellular damage occurs.

Reducing fat and salt intake, smoking, and regular exercise, eating foods rich in antioxidants (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and leafy greens) helps to reduce the damage caused by these free radicals. For those who don’t eat a well-balanced diet, taking supplements is highly recommended. Smokers especially, should consider taking antioxidants daily.

After heavy exercise, one may need additional antioxidants according to a leading researcher. Exercise stimulates our body’s production of “free radicals” that attack cells, leading to long-term damage and a higher risk of cancer. To counteract the exercise hazard, experts suggest taking antioxidant supplements daily, notably vitamin E (400 IU) and vitamin C (1000 mg).

Sources of antioxidants

Brewed coffee seems to produce hundreds of new chemicals that appear to have antioxidant qualities. Each chemical is present in only tiny amounts, but taken together in a cup of coffee, they could add up to have about the same antioxidant effect as three oranges.

Selenium has been found to be beneficial in the fight against free radicals, which contribute to premature aging, among other things. Selenium is found in the highest concentrations in seafood’s, grains, muscle meats, and Brazil nuts.

Vegetables and fruits with the deepest colors contain the highest levels of antioxidant nutrients.

One scientist recently discovered that chocolate contains phenolics, an antioxidant that is believed to reduce overall chances of contracting heart disease