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Posted By Judi Samuels, M.A. on Sep 28, 2018 1:01:02 PM

Let's address success...


"Oh, I’m so stressed!” is a phrase we say and hear so often. Stress is a condition we may have a love/hate relationship with, but one thing we know for sure, it isn’t always good for our bodies. What happens when that stress reaches our cellular level?

As with so many things in the body, we need a certain balance, especially in our cells. We need the right amount of free radicals, and the right amount of antioxidants to keep them in check.

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.

Free radicals are constantly being formed during metabolism, so without antioxidants, which our bodies are also producing, they would destroy our bodies very quickly. When this balance gets disrupted, things can start to go wrong. When the free radicals (pro-oxidants) outnumber the antioxidants, this can lead to a state called oxidative stress.

Prolonged oxidative stress leads to increased risk of negative health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. It is also thought to contribute to the aging process. During oxidative stress, important molecules in the body can become severely damaged, sometimes even leading to cell death.

We generate more free radicals when we’re under stress, exposed to too much sun, pollution (like cigarette smoke or pesticides) and even when we exercise.

Several stress factors and lifestyle habits are known to promote excessive free radical formation and oxidative stress. Watch out for these common sources of free radicals: 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.)

However, it's important to keep in mind that free radicals also serve important functions that are essential for our survival. For example, the body's immune cells use free radicals to kill bacteria that try to infect us.

Next question: “OK, I know they’re good for you, but just what is an antioxidant anyway?”

Antioxidants are molecules that fight damage by free radicals, unstable molecules that can harm cellular structures. Antioxidants do this by giving electrons to the free radicals and neutralizing them.

By protecting your cells, antioxidants slash the risk of every chronic disease, from heart disease and diabetes to Alzheimer’s and obesity. One recent study found that people with higher antioxidant intakes weigh less and have less body fat, even though they eat the same number of calories.

Our diet is an essential source of antioxidants. They are naturally found in foods of both plant and animal origin, especially in vegetables, fruits and beverages like coffee and tea.

Here is a list of a few important dietary antioxidants:

  • Vitamin C: One of the most important water-soluble antioxidants and an essential dietary nutrient.
  • Vitamin E: The main fat-soluble antioxidant that plays a critical role in protecting cell membranes against oxidative damage.
  • Flavonoids: A large group of antioxidants found in plant foods. They have many beneficial health effects.

Many substances that happen to be antioxidants can also have other important functions. Notable examples include curcuminoids in turmeric and oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil. These substances function as antioxidants, but they also have potent anti-inflammatory activity.

At the end of the day, the best way to ensure that you get the right amount of antioxidants, is to eat a real food based diet that includes plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Eat more brightly colored 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. Avoid 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 cells 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 mental state has a massive influence on your overall health. Finding that balance in all aspects of your life will improve your stress at every level, including your cells!

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