Credit in your health bank
Posted on 1st January 2022 at 12:59
Understanding the role of antioxidants (AOs) and free radicals (FRs) in maintaining credit in your health account
Today I want to explain how the balance of antioxidants (let’s call them AOs) and free radicals (FRs) affects our health and our ability to age well. There are loads of YouTube videos on the subject and a mass of Internet articles, some of which are more scientific than others, so feel free to delve deeper. This article will give you the bare bones, in (hopefully) a very understandable way.
I think of health as having credit in your current account. We all know that a current account has lots of entries which may be credit (income) or debit (expenses/outgoings) and that when the outgoings exceed the income the balance becomes negative and we go into overdraft or debt. We may not like all the expenses we have such as electricity, taxes etc but they are a necessary part of modern life. Sometimes however we choose expenses that outweigh our income in the short term, for long term gain, and catch up later to restore the balance.
Thinking of AOs and FRs in the same way helps us gain an understanding of how a credit balance in our health account is beneficial to our overall wellbeing and minimizes the degenerative processes that lead to disease and premature aging. Here’s how…
The body is truly amazing and constantly undergoes a complex series of processes to maintain our health. We don’t understand them all yet but maintaining balance requires both positives and negatives. Think of gut bacteria as an example – the gut contains a staggering number of different bacteria ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The ‘bad’ ones are there for reasons that we don’t fully understand but as long as the ‘good’ ones predominate then generally all is well. The same thing applies in the rest of the body – in the credit column we have AOs and in the debit column we have FRs.
FRs are a natural part of living, the body produces them all the time and when kept in check they are harmless. There are activities under our control such as smoking, drinking large amounts of alcohol, eating junk food, even over exercising, that produce FRs in excess, as well as other factors less in our control like radiation, chemical pollutants in the atmosphere and stress caused by the behavior of others (the list could go on) that can cause FRs to proliferate. When FRs get out of control disease and degeneration ensue.
AOs are also an ongoing part of living and reside in our credit column (metaphorically that is), the body produces them all the time to mop up and neutralize FRs. There are some however that are termed essential. In dietary terms, essential means nutrients that the body cannot make itself and has to acquire from the foods we eat. Some fatty acids are essential as are many AOs.
Let’s go back to our balance sheet – on the credit side we have AOs and on the debit side we have FRs. When the FRs outweigh the AOs we are in an debt and that means disease. The body in its infinite wisdom will try to maintain a positive balance and can generally do so for quite some time before disease ensues, but constantly taking from the account without replenishing it will eventually spell trouble. A short spell on the debit side however can be seen as a positive thing as it alerts us to the fact (through signs and symptoms) that credit is running low and an injection of funds (AOs) is needed to restore the balance. Minor recurrent infections for example may be caused by too little sleep or too much junk food, if we address those issues and put the body back into a state of equilibrium then minor disease does not progress into anything more sinister. If however we ignore the warning signs and carry on in our overdraft, disease becomes deep-seated and progresses to a chronic or more degenerative state.
Now I did say earlier that sometimes we choose to go into our overdraft – we may work longer hours and endure more stress to save up for a much needed holiday, or overindulge in food and drink at Xmas time so we can kick back and be sociable. For a short while our FRs may outweigh our AOs without causing too much harm. Minor aberrations can be rectified quite easily and quickly by adding in more AOs in the foods we eat.
AOs are present in abundance in fresh fruit and vegetables. If these are organic and locally grown then so much the better, the quantity and quality of the AOs they contain will be higher. Wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes and animal proteins also contain antioxidants in varying degrees and these are also much dependent on the provenance and processing of the foods. And of course you can obtain AOs in supplement form but that should only be necessary for short periods of time or in specific cases when it is not possible to obtain them from a healthy, nutritious diet.
Processing foods, adding preservatives and cooking all interfere with AO values. Not only can those factors decrease the amount of AOs a food contains but they can also actively promote the formation of FRs. A diet high in unprocessed, fresh fruit and vegetables will add the most credit to your health account and if you continue this on an ongoing basis then the healthier that account will become.
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