Most people know about the damaging health effects of physical or emotional stress, but few people are aware of another type of stress that can significantly damage your cells and tissues. It’s called oxidative stress, and your body could be suffering from it right now. What is oxidative stress, and how can your eating habits help you fight it?
What is Oxidative Stress?
When it converts food into energy, your body naturally produces free radicals, which are molecules with one or more unpaired electrons. To complete these pairs, free radicals steal electrons from other molecules in your body, which can damage your DNA, cells, and tissues.
Your body produces antioxidants in an effort to keep free radicals in check. Antioxidants bind to free radicals to prevent them from stealing electrons and damaging other molecules.
Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body. In other words, oxidative stress occurs when there are not enough antioxidants to stop free radicals from overwhelming your body’s defense system.
Risk Factors of Oxidative Stress
The production of free radicals is a normal bodily function. That being said, certain lifestyle factors can increase your body’s production of free radicals, which puts you at a greater risk of oxidative stress. Some of these risk factors include:
Exposure to toxic chemicals, pesticides, or air pollution
- Alcohol consumption
- Diets high in fat and/or sugar
The Harmful Health Effects of Oxidative Stress
Free radicals can damage cells, DNA, tissue, and proteins when left unchecked by antioxidants. Because of this damage, oxidative stress could potentially contribute to the development of over 200 health conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic inflammation
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Huntington’s disease
Oxidative stress can also contribute to the loss of collagen and elasticity in the skin, which can result in signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.
Healthy Eating Tips to Combat Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress
The key to preventing oxidative stress is making sure your body has the antioxidants it needs to fight free radicals. Your body produces antioxidants on its own, but it may not produce enough to balance the number of free radicals.
For this reason, it’s important to eat a diet that is rich in antioxidants. Follow these tips:
Add flavor to your food with spices and herbs, such as rosemary, sage, oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, and clove, which contain high levels of antioxidants.
- Eat five servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables per day and follow good timed eating habits. The fruits and vegetables with the highest concentration of antioxidants are blackberries, blueberries, goji berries, artichokes, kale, and bell peppers. In general, fruits and vegetables with dark, rich colors contain higher levels of antioxidants.
- Snack on antioxidant-rich nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, pecans, and sunflower seeds.
- Avoid processed foods, which are typically high in fat and sugar.
- If you’re craving something sweet, nibble on a piece of dark chocolate, which is full of antioxidants.
- Sip on green tea, pomegranate juice, or black coffee.
- Start every morning with a MANTRA Labs RISE drink powder, which is rich in antioxidants.
It’s impossible to completely avoid exposure to free radicals, but following these healthy eating tips will help you load up on antioxidants and prevent oxidative stress.