Generally, most of us would consider oxygen to be pretty good for us. After all, we need to breathe in order to stay alive and this is entirely due to the huge number of crucial roles that oxygen has inside our bodies. Without oxygen we wouldn’t last very long at all.
But while oxygen is very good for us, what’s also important to remember is that it’s highly reactive. This is what makes it useful as an energy source but at the same time it’s also what makes it quite dangerous in a number of ways.
What Are Free Radicals?
What is oxidative stress? Essentially, oxidative stress describes a state of imbalance where there are too many ‘free radicals’ in the body versus antioxidants.
Free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen and that have one or more unpaired electrons. This makes them particularly dangerous as they are highly reactive with other molecules.
Some of these reactive molecules are actually useful as they help the body by attacking pathogens and harmful microbes. Free radicals though are loose cannons and are like bulls in a china shop – reacting with all kinds of components in the body from cell membranes, to DNA and proteins and lipids. By damaging skin cells, free radicals can cause visible signs of ageing and if they react badly with DNA this can then lead to the development of cancers.
What Are Antioxidants?
Fortunately, there is a way to counteract all the destruction caused by these free radicals and oxidative stress which involves the use of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules within the cells which can prevent unwanted reactions with free radicals by donating electrons to the free radicals without becoming unstable. This then neutralizes the free radical in question and prevents it from causing further harm.
Fortunately it is possible to get more antioxidants by maintaining the right diet. Antioxidants are actually present in a number of different foods and particularly in a lot of different fruits. Vitamins A, C and E, selenium and more are all antioxidants and by ensuring you get plenty in your diet you can reduce oxidative stress and potentially live a longer and healthier life.