Free radicals are atoms or molecules that have an unpaired electron in their outermost shell. This makes them highly reactive and able to easily bond with other molecules, potentially causing chemical reactions that can damage cells and contribute to aging and diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Free radicals can be produced naturally by the body, but can also be caused by environmental factors such as pollution, UV radiation, and smoking. Antioxidants, which are found in many fruits and vegetables, can help neutralize free radicals and protect cells from damage.
Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals by donating an electron to the free radical, which stabilizes the molecule and prevents it from reacting with and damaging other molecules. This neutralized free radical is now a stable molecule and no longer poses a threat to the body. Antioxidants can also help to prevent the formation of free radicals in the first place. They can scavenge the precursor molecules that would otherwise be converted into free radicals, and also can inhibit the enzymes that catalyze the oxidation process. Some common Some foods that are high in antioxidants include berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries), dark chocolate, nuts (such as pecans and walnuts), leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and fruits such as tomatoes, pomegranates, and avocados. Other sources of antioxidants include tea, red wine, and spices like turmeric and ginger.