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Free Radicals and Antioxidants: The Ultimate Balance

By Kate Gardner 

Do you know what an antioxidant is? What about a free radical? Beyond knowing that these things have to do with our health, most of us would be hard-pressed to give much of a definition. But these words do have meanings which are (usually) pretty easy to understand. Knowing what they mean can give us a leg up on understanding why we should do certain things and avoid others for optimal health. 

Free Radicals

Your body is constantly carrying out the many life-sustaining chemical reactions which make up metabolism. According to, during metabolism, molecules are split apart and can lose an electron. This creates a free radical. Free radicals are unstable and they want to replace their missing electron. Free radicals damage the atoms and molecules of other structures in the body by stealing their electrons. Too many free radicals bouncing through your body can cause serious havoc! 

You make your own free radicals, but you also bring free radicals into your body from the outside. Free radicals are found in cigarette smoke and air pollution. You also consume them when you eat fried foods. The damage that free radicals cause has been connected to cancer, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer's disease, to name a few. But free radicals aren't all bad. They are a natural and necessary part of the work our body does to stay alive. They are also used in the immune system. 


Antioxidants are the superheroes that come in and neutralize the free radicals. They're happy to give free radicals an electron, which keeps the free radicals from stealing electrons from other molecules. Your body depends on antioxidants to keep free radicals in check, so they don't cause damage. tells us that, just like with free radicals, your body makes its own antioxidants. But you take in more every time you eat. All plant and animal-based foods contain antioxidants, though some have more than others. Specifically, plants have more antioxidants, like Vitamins C and E, than meats do. Dark chocolate and green tea are also good sources of antioxidants which we often hear about in health and wellness news. And many Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee! 

Now we all know a little bit more about free radicals and antioxidants and the balance between them. You can see why it's important to limit smoking and eating fried foods so that you don't flood your system with more free radicals and why antioxidant-rich foods are good for you. 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in San Antonio, Tex. 

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