How To Tackle Free Radicals And What Are They?

Posted by in Lifestyle

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Free Radicals. It’s a term that gets thrown around on television and in the media a lot, but not always with much thought and not always correctly. As we’re looking to improve ourselves in every way possible this month, we thought it was important to touch on this common and misunderstood topic to cover exactly what free radicals are and what you can do to defeat them. The good news is the solution involves a delicious brew and lots of berries…

What are free radicals? To understand what free radicals are, we need to first cast our minds way, way back to those thrilling high school chemistry lessons we enjoyed so much, particular lessons surrounding the composition of a cell. Within the body there are living cells and each cell is made up of molecules, which are made up of atoms. Atoms are comprised of many shells which each contain a certain number of electrons, and if they are missing electrons in the outermost shell these atoms are considered “unstable”. If the outermost shell of an atom is not full, then this means the atom will interfere and react with the surrounding atoms in an attempt to try and “steal” an electron and complete the shell. This causes a cascade of “electron stealing” which eventually causes damage to the living cell. It’s a bit difficult to imagine in so many bland words, so I’ll attempt to make a more understandable example:

Imagine the atom is me and I am at a nice party. I have two hands and to feel stable I need to have a glass of wine in each hand. However, if due to unforeseen circumstances I lose a glass of wine, I’ll have a free hand and I won’t be happy about it. To rectify the situation, I’ll move around the party trying to find a glass of wine I can steal off someone else, hence upsetting those around me and eventually causing the entire party to sour as everyone steals wine from one another.

The process of losing electrons is known as Oxidation and the only way to stop this cascade of reactions is by introducing an electron lender, also known as an antioxidant. Antioxidants save the day by donating electrons to unstable atoms (giving glasses of wine to disgruntled party-goers) and so stabilising the atoms. So where can we find these generous antioxidants? They do occur naturally in the body, in the forms of Vitamin E and Vitamin C, however in situations where the concentration of antioxidants is increased, your body may need extra. You can consume antioxidants in certain foods such as fruits, vegetables and certain teas. Some great and delicious antioxidant rich fruits include blueberries, blackberries and cranberries, whilst beans, artichokes and russet potatoes are great vegetable alternatives.

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So why have free radicals become such a hot topic in recent years? There are certain behaviour and environmental factors which can contribute to an increase of free radicals within the body. Smoking, drinking alcohol, sun exposure and consuming bad fats can all increase your risk of free radicals. If you know you’re guilty of one (or all) of these then the solution is simple. Cut down on damaging behaviours such as smoking and drinking and pack your diet full of lots of antioxidant rich goodies! In doing so you’ll reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and slow down the ageing process - you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain so be sure to include antioxidants in your January detox diet. Your body will thank you!

There are also many beauty products which contain free radical fighting antioxidants such as Vitamin E & C and retinol. Paula's choice is one of the front runners for antioxidant beauty and you can read more about the benefits of these hero ingredients here. One of our favourite products from Paula's Choice is this Resist Anti-aging Super Antioxidant Serum £30 which fights free radicals to dissolve age spots, reduce wrinkles and stimulate collagen production for younger looking skin.

Antioxidants are often used in anti-ageing treatments as many of the symptoms of aged skin (fine lines, wrinkles, age spots) are caused by free radicals. Another great free radical fighting product on the market is this Retinol Correxion Sensitive Eye Cream from Roc £22.41 which has an oil-free formula with a mild strength of retinol to reduce the signs of ageing for even sensitive eyes.

In conclusion, free radicals are the bad guys and are a contributing cause of cancer, heart disease, alzheimer's and accelerated ageing. How can you defeat these terrors? Avoid risk factors including sun exposure, smoking and drinking whilst enjoying delicious antioxidant rich smoothies, teas and vegetables. You’ll lose weight, feel great and banish the invisible attackers all in one fell swoop - simple!

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