Free radicals is a term heard often, but what are they? In the simplest terms- free radicals damage cells and accelerate the ageing process. They cause age-related affects such as graying hair and wrinkles but early studies show they could be the causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other conditions and diseases.
There are many causes of free radicals, namely: intense/aggressive exercise, pollution, smoking and stress to name a few. Looking at the specifics of exercise and the impact of free radicals, it is through the increase of oxygen, that more free radicals are produced.
Free radicals are not all bad though. Our bodies naturally produce free radicals to kill bacteria and viruses. We combat these through the presence of antioxidants, which our bodies naturally produce and which we consume through fruits and vegetables.
Have you ever noticed when you start a training programme you generally feel worse before you feel better?
Well, as highlighted, it is through exercise that there is an increase in oxygen which causes these free radicals to produce in greater quantities. And this can make us feel rubbish. It doesn’t mean stopping though. Far from it. In fact, regular exercise means our body makes adaptations to increase the antioxidant defences (like it does with the natural production of free radicals). So in the short term our immune systems are weaker but overall and in the long term, it will have positive effects. However, this only applies to regular exercise. In fact, ad hoc exercise can do more damage than good.
So we know that antioxidants are the way to go. But what are antioxidants?
They help to reduce cell damage and reduce the risk of cancer cell growth. As free radicals are produced through everyday, lifestyle factors, unless you can avoid pollution (almost impossible) and stress (for example) increasing your intake of antioxidants can only be a positive thing.
All that’s left to know is where can you find antioxidants! WebMD suggest the following 10 Super Foods to help improve your bodies immunities and other benefits, such as a greater intake of vitamins and minerals:
- Red, purple and blue grapes
- Red berries (e.g. raspberries and strawberries)
- Dark green veggies
- Sweet potatoes and orange vegetables
- Tea (mostly green tea)
- Whole grains
I highly recommend referring to the article to find out more about these Super Foods and the benefits you get from each as well as the specifics on the food item in question.
The moral? Ensure you exercise regularly instead of on an ad hoc basis and increase your intake of antioxidants to combat free radicals (whether you exercise of not!).