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Antioxidants & Free Radicals Defined

Most of us know that antioxidants prevent cancer. On the flip side, we hear about free radicals fueling cancer growth and not being good for our health. But
Jun 4, 2009 | Joy McCarthy

Most of us know that antioxidants prevent cancer. On the flip side, we hear about free radicals fueling cancer growth and not being good for our health. But if you are not entirely clear what all this means, then read on because I'm going to define it for you as simply as I can.

Antioxidants - What are they?

Antioxidants are essentially the soldiers in your body. They protect your cells from damage and prevent them from turning cancerous because they neutralize free radicals. Not only do they work to prevent cancer, certain nutrients in specific combination can help the body reverse the cancer that is already present. There are many antioxidants in our food supply and hopefully in your breakfast and lunch today! Before I continue telling you about how they work their magic, let me tell you about free radicals.

Free Radicals - What are they?

Free radicals initiate cancerous processes in a compromised or weakened immune system. Now for the chemistry! A free radical is a molecule fragment that has an unpaired electron in its outer shell. This makes it very volatile and causes it to react instantly with whatever is around to regain it's missing electron. If a free radical reacts with a non-radical, another free radical is produced. This becomes a chain reaction.

So, in short antioxidants "neutralize" the free radicals and stop them in their tracks from damaging cells.

According to David Rowland, "Cancer is an imprecise term that describes some 200 different kinds of malignant growths, all of which involve the spreading of abnormal tissues". When the genetic material of a cell is changed from a free radical, a cancerous cell can develop, which then clones itself into a mutant cell that grows out of control.


Cancerous cells exist in every human body to some extent from time to time. Shocking yes, but very true. As Rowland states, "more than anything else, cancer is a disease of a weakened immunity". If you strengthen the terrain (your body) and provide the raw materials to power your immune system then you increase your soldiers and improve your cancer fighting ability.

A healthy body has plenty of antioxidants and is well protected against free radical damage to cells. Free radicals cannot be completely avoided and in fact, you produce your own when you exercise or feel stressed out. These are common sources of free radicals to watch out for: x-rays, smoking, exhaust fumes, food preservatives (nitrates - preserved meats), cleaning supplies (floor cleaners, surface sprays, toilet bowl cleaners), chlorinated drinking water, constipation, rancid fats, hydrogenated fats (check those cookies) and polyunsaturated oils (avoid those yellow oils in plastic containers in the grocery store - they are trouble, especially when heated). Read Udo Erasmus's book "Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill" for more information.

Nature has a wonderful way of helping us prevent cancer - food with antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin C and E, selenium, zinc and glutathione. Generous amounts in your diet help build up your team of soldiers and reduce your risk of cancer. These antioxidants protect your cells by absorbing or attaching to free radicals and preventing them from attacking normal tissues.

Eat more brightly coloured organic fruits and vegetables. Variety is key - don't get stuck in a rut of eating the same blueberries every day, try something new every week. Eat more nutrient dense foods like quinoa, oats, whole grains, lean protein like fish, chicken and eggs. Avoiding the nasties like fried foods, white flour, white rice, sugar and choose good quality fats like avocado, olive oil and flax oil, to keep your terrain strong.

If you avoid the sources of free radicals and provide your body with specific nutrients that fight them, then you are taking a huge step in creating a healthy body. There are many other factors for consideration that cannot be ignored, such as your emotional wellness and your outlook on life. Yes, your mind state has a massive influence on your overall health, but that is far too much to write for this post. I will save it for another day :)

Eat well | Be well | Live well!


Jun 4, 2009 BY Joy McCarthy
darin   •   June 5, 2009

Joy, fantastic article and read.. You take a subject that can be complex to many and simply it nicely.. Building further awareness around what our bodies need and what we should avoid is exactly what we need to recognize and undersatnd for long term health and vitality.. Look forward to some of your upcoming articles Kind regards, Darin O'Callaghan


Prevent Cancer – Add 1 or 2 of These Foods Everyday « joyous health   •   July 17, 2009

[...] Antioxidants & Free Radicals Defined [...]


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