Free Radicals Summed Up
A Free Radical is an atom or molecule that is unstable due to having an unpaired electron. To balance itself the Free Radical steals an electron from another molecule in your body. This process, called Oxidation, results in changing the molecule with the stolen electron into a Free Radical and thus, often creates a domino effect of Free Radical damage. Free Radicals are created in our own bodies when they make energy and when they are fighting infections and inflammation. They also come from outside sources like the environment, drugs, cigarette smoke, toxic chemicals, and pesticides. While seemingly bad, they do have some benefits: They kill bacteria, activate genes, help the liver detox and provide blood vessel relaxation. On the contrary, Free Radicals damage other molecules and tissues, increase the chances of gene mutations (a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene) if they damage DNA, oxidize LDL cholesterol, which can cause coronary artery blockage and can effect energy production if mitochondria (also known as the powerhouses of cells) is damaged. They also contribute to aging and have been linked to over 60 diseases such as:
While Free Radicals are unavoidable to some degree, you can take precautions to limit your exposure by doing the following:
·Buy non-toxic cleaning supplies.
·Avoid smoking/drugs and limit alcohol intake.
·Buy organic produce, and if you aren’t able to go all organic, the dirty dozen list is great to reference. It highlights what produce has the highest amount of toxins. At the least, buy organic for any produce that falls on this list.
·Avoid foods with Trans-fats- Read food labels and look for the ingredient “hydrogenated oil”. Food companies can say a food has 0 Trans-fats as long as it is below .5 grams. Trans-fats are found in everything from fried foods, cookies, cakes, chips, and more. Avoiding processed foods and eating whole foods is a surefire way to avoid Trans-fats.
·Protect yourself against prolonged exposure to the sun- Wear a hat, use an umbrella at the beach, and use a quality oil like coconut or Vitamin E to protect your skin.
·Limit sugar and animal protein in your diet.
·Practice stress reduction by doing yoga, meditation, journaling and spending time in nature, as stress hormones also create Free Radicals.
Meet Antioxidants- Free Radical's Enemy, YOUR Best Friend
You hear the term Antioxidants a lot and know that they are good for you, but WHY? Antioxidants are molecules that eliminate Free Radicals, and are known as Free Radical Scavengers. They neutralize or get rid of the damage from Free Radicals by giving electrons to them, so they don’t steal electrons from other molecules. They also repair cell damage that Free Radicals cause. Glutathione is considered the body’s most powerful antioxidant, it has the power to maximize the ability of all other antioxidants, like Vitamin C and E. As you get older, your body isn’t able to make glutathione as well, but there are nutrients that you can eat to help promote its production including:
·High-quality whey protein (look for organic, and grass-fed)
·Curcumin (found in turmeric)
·Eggs (choose organic + pastured)
Glutathione is also found in these foods:
·Fresh fruits and vegetables: Especially in asparagus and avocado
·Grass-fed meat and wild fish
While the body makes some antioxidants like Glutathione, it still isn’t able to make enough to protect your body against the amount of Free Radicals it has to constantly deal with. That’s where eating a diet rich in antioxidants is important, such as:
Foods high in Vitamin E: Olive oil, avocado, almonds, dark leafy greens like kale, and papaya.
Foods high in Vitamin C: Strawberries, pineapple, grapefruit, oranges, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, and cauliflower.
Beta-carotene rich foods: Carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, cantaloupe and broccoli.
Selenium rich foods: Brazil nuts, meat, mushrooms, seafood, eggs, and sunflower seeds.
Foods high in Zinc: Oysters, peas, ginger root, peanuts, almonds, and pecans.
Foods high in Carotenoids: Found in orange, red, and yellow fruit and vegetables like sweet potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes, and also in dark, leafy greens like kale.
Foods high in Flavonoids (Polyphenols): Found in purple grapes, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, green tea, apples and blackberries.
In conclusion, while you can and should make some lifestyle changes to reduce your exposure to Free Radical damage, they will inevitably be something your body has to fight. Luckily you can help your body defend these pesky Free Radicals by eating a diet rich in quality whole foods and antioxidants.
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2015.) Foundations of Nutrition. (p. 171). Penngrove, CA: Bauman College
Nutritional Biochemistry: Cell Structure, Function, and Protection. (PowerPoint slides). Retrieved from Bauman College: http://dashboard.baumancollege.org/
Livestrong (2013, October 31.) Negative Effects of Trans Fats. Retrieved from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/519977-negative-effects-of-trans-fats/
Dr. Mike Roussell (n.d.) Top 25 Highest Polyphenol Rich Foods. Retrieved from: http://mikeroussell.com/top-25-highest-polyphenol-rich-foods/
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A little backstory, I have ALWAYS LOVED eggs, but there was a whole 365 days (that's 8,765 hours) I did not eat eggs because I had gone Vegan, probably 4-5 years ago now. Looking back, I don't know how I lasted that long. But trust me, once I did start eating eggs again, I definitely made up for it- I probably consumed them too much for a time period, I was obsessed. But rightfully so, I mean a WHOLE year without eggs?! I love eggs so much because there are soooo many ways you can do them, so they really never get boring. Plus, they have the highest Biological Value of any whole food. Which means your body is able to absorb, retain, and use the most amino acids from eggs. And guys- amino acids are ESSENTIAL to your overall health and well being, but you do want to be sure you are getting your proteins (or aminos) from quality sources (insert organic, wild, grass-fed, pastured HERE).
To those curious as to why I stopped being Vegan and started eating eggs (and fish) again...My body started to crave eggs, it wasn't my mind, but my BODY telling me I was missing out on key nutrients. And, yes, there are supplements a Vegan can take to make up for the nutrients they are not getting from eating plant-based, but to be honest, I wasn't 100% cautious of this at the time. And when it comes down to it, I would rather get nutrients from food sources than supplements, when I can. Looking back, I can see how restricted I was as a Vegan, and yes, it is doable, but there is a lot of planning and thinking that goes into it.
I love now, when I eat out for breakfast (on the rare occasion) I can count on finding a healthy egg dish, or when going out to dinner with friends/family I can count on a fish dish as a healthy choice- When I was Vegan, this proved to be a huge challenge, not only did I have to find something that was healthy, but it had to be completely animal-free too. So for me, I think it has taken the stress out of eating- After all, eating should be something to enjoy, not something to fret over. I also feel FREE, and liberated perhaps, that I don't have to associate myself with a food label. I'm able to eat whatever my body wants, without having foods I "can't" eat. Now don't get me wrong, for anyone who is Vegan, I 100% respect that, as I respect all ways of eating (except cannibalism and GMO foods- No thanks Monsanto!) , but at the end of the day you have to do what is right for YOU. From my own experience, I think I am happier not having to fit a certain diet to a tee and also, I feel healthier than ever. Don't get me wrong I still very much enjoy my raw and vegan foods!
One more issue to address quickly, eggs sure get a bad rep because of cholesterol, but what many are not aware of is our bodies absolutely need cholesterol. It is essential for keeping us ALIVE (and I rather love living). It helps the body maintain the cell walls, provides antioxidants, helps make hormones that we need, and synthesizes Vitamin D3 from the sun in our skin (plus other things). Our nervous system and brain are full of cholesterol! It's so important that our own bodies even make it. And for those still worried about your cholesterol levels, it has been learned that dietary cholesterol actually has very little or no effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Now back to EGGS...from school, I have learned about pastured eggs, something I was not all too familiar with beforehand. And now that I have the lowdown on them, as well as conventional eggs (your typical non-organic eggs, you'll find at any Ralph's, for example), I wanted to share with you the IMPORTANCE of buying pastured, or at the very least, organic eggs. Yes, they are a little more costly, but you should spend the extra few bucks. Here is the breakdown of each type of egg, to show you WHY:
Conventional: Your standard white eggs you'll find at any grocery store. The chickens are raised in an over-populated barn or cage where they are prone to bacteria and disease, on top of never having access to sunlight or the outdoors (so saddd). They are typically treated with hormones and antibiotics (which means you can become drug-resistant from eating these...NO thank you.) And typically are fed cheap, GMO-laced grains. So all in all, from these eggs, you are potentially bringing hormones, antibiotics, bacteria, disease and GMO's into your body, all while supporting this kind of poor animal-treatment.
Organic: The eggs will have the official organic seal somewhere on the outside of the carton. These chickens are antibiotic and hormone free and are fed organic feed- so NO GMO's. But they also may have limited access to being outside and aren't fed their natural diet.
Pastured: These chickens kind of live the life of luxury, at least in the Farmed Chicken World...they are allowed to roam freely outside while eating their natural omnivore diet of plants and insects. Eggs from pastured chickens are naturally richer in flavor and color (darker egg yolk). And they come without any hormones, antibiotics, GMO's, etc.
On top of this info, in studies, pastured eggs have higher amounts of Vitamin E, A, and Omega-3's, which are essential fatty acids. They are also lower in cholesterol, for those still worried about that topic. If you aren't taking fish oil supplements, or don't eat fish often, pastured eggs can be a great source to get your required omega-3's. Omega 3's help with brain function and eyesight, burn stored fat, are a natural hormone replacer and they are good for joint health and blood pressure, support heart health, and the list goes on....
SO now that you have the lowdown with your egg options, I HOPE you can clearly see why spending the extra 2-3$ on organic, or better yet, pastured eggs, is worth it. AND even by spending the extra cash, you are still only buying each egg for 40-50 cents each. I mean what a BARGAIN, you can't get wild salmon, organic chicken, or grass fed bison for that price, not EVER. If you have 2 eggs in a day, that's spending one dollar to eat the eggs with the MOST nutrients, plus it comes with the peace of mind that you aren't consuming GMO's, horomones, antibiotics and more.