You may have heard the phrase “oxidative stress” and probably wondering what it actually means.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body, which can have harmful effects including damage to cell tissue.
But how can you combat against oxidative stress?
What are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are atoms or molecules that have an uneven number of electrons. This makes them unstable.
They are constantly hunting for an extra electron to steal in order to become stable.
Free radicals are constantly being formed in our bodies. They are the by-product of cell metabolism and necessary for our bodies’ processes.
But free radicals can be harmful. They steal an electron from another molecule, which then becomes unstable and steals an elector from another. This chain reaction in your body can be harmful leading to oxidative stress.
Excessive formation of free radicals can also be affected by environmental factors and lifestyle habits including air pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol intake, radiation and UV exposure.
Why are antioxidants important?
Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells in your body from damage from free radicals.
Oxidation is a normal process that takes place in your body. But oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity.
If there are more free radicals present in the body that are not kept in balance by antioxidants, they can cause damage to your body potentially leading to diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory conditions.
When a molecule loses an electron and turns into a free radical, the antioxidant molecule sweeps in and gives an electron to the free radical, effectively balancing and neutralising it, preventing it from causing any harm to your body.
How can I prevent oxidative stress?
The best way to minimise the harmful effects of oxidative stress is to increase your levels of antioxidants to decrease the formation of free radicals in your body.
Ensure you include enough sources of antioxidants in your diet by eating a variety of food including but not limited to:
- Citrus fruits
- Dark leafy green vegetables
- Green tea
Antioxidants can be found in many of our superfoods including Acai powder, Cacao powder, Spirulina powder, Wheatgrass powder and Goji berries.
For a healthy energy boost, try these Spirulina Cacao Energy Balls.
You can also prevent and reduce oxidative stress by following a healthy lifestyle:
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke
- Protect your skin from UV damage by wearing sunscreen
- Decrease your intake of alcohol
- Get enough sleep
The formation of free radicals is normal and part of your body’s functioning. To be healthy, your body needs a balance between free radicals and antioxidants. When disrupted, this can lead to oxidative stress which is damaging for your body.
While you cannot completely avoid exposure to free radicals in the physical environment, you can make lifestyle choices by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet including nutrients to protect your body against the effect of oxidative stress.