Radical damage is the cause of so many modern health problems. It has been linked to increasing the risk of cancer, causing inflammation (and related diseases) and is even thought to be a major cause for the development of the signs of ageing (wrinkly skin etc). It is simply a bane on modern society. Ensuring proper protection from these radicals is a big, and very important aspect of keeping healthy, and here are 6 easy changes to your lifestyle you can make to improve your radical protection:
1. Eat more berries
Aside from being delicious, berries are highly concentrated in powerful antioxidants, and have some of the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of any food. Berries are also very high in vitamin C, which is an important water soluble antioxidant that our body cannot store, meaning we need a regular supply of it.
To put the antioxidant capacity of berries into perspective, blueberries have an ORAC value of 9,621, whereas apples have a value of 2,589, and bananas are 795. Blueberries are capable of absorbing nearly 4x the amount of radicals as apples, and 12x that of bananas.
2. Add some herbs & spices
Herbs and spices are amazing sources of non-essential micro-nutrients, called polyphenols. These polyphenols are almost always strong antioxidants which will offer additional radical protection, but it is their additional benefits to the body which are of particular interest. The polyphenols in turmeric for example, have been shown to increase enzymes in our body which fight radicals, and astragalus has been shown to increase telomere length, which shield our DNA from radical damage. I’m not suggesting that you have a curry every night just to eat some turmeric, but these herbs and spices add some great flavours to a variety of dishes, and offer great radical protection.
3. Drink green tea
Green tea is another source of a group of polyphenols called catechins which have been one of the most heavily researched phenolic compounds. The polyphenols found in green tea are powerful antioxidants, and get metabolised by the digestive system into other antioxidants which can very easily be absorbed by the digestive system. Research of green tea has shown an ability to protect the cardiovascular system from oxidative stress – which can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
4. Cut out inflammatory foods
Inflammation itself is a common source of oxidative damage, and an easy way to reduce inflammation is to reduce the consumption of inflammatory foods. These include fizzy drinks, processed meats, breads and pastries. It is also important to moderate the amount of omega-6 fatty acids you consume, because although they are beneficial in small amounts, they are produce pro-inflammatory metabolites, and inhibit the production of important omega-3s.
5. Cook smart
Everyone uses oils to cook foods with, but some oils are much healthier than others to cook with. Coconut oil is much better to cook with compared to olive oil, because the fats in coconut oil are much more heat stable. Ideally, you would be using coconut oil for all frying/ baking, and use olive oil as a salad dressing.
Its also important to avoid burning foods. That black bit on your toast or the tip of an over-cooked sweet potato fry is a compound called acrylamide, which is highly reactive, and associated with nerve damage and cancer development.
6. Exercise (moderately)
There is a sweet spot to exercising. Not exercising causes inflammation, over exercising causes inflammation and radical damage, but moderate exercise is anti-inflammatory. Try and exercise between 3-5 times a week to a level that you are comfortable with (Wii sports doesn’t count).
Image courtesy of David~O