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Free Radicals Versus Antioxidants

Updated on May 15, 2016

Free Radicals Cause Damage and Disease

To understand what antioxidants do for the body, we need to understand what Free Radicals are, and how they cause damage; as there is an ongoing battle in your body between free radicals and antioxidants. Free Radicals are hazardous molecules that age us and cause diseases. A brief technical explanation is that atoms are the smallest building blocks of everything living. Each atom has electrons circling around the center, if you remember your high or college chemistry, and normally electrons come in pairs. When an atom is short one electron or has one too many, it’s called a Free Radical.

The radical is free because it is cruising around aggressively looking for a partner. If it grabs a replacement electron from an atom that is part of a healthy cell in your body, then there’s damage to that cell. Oxygen is the source of most free radicals so the damage is called oxidation. Free radical oxidation is what makes iron rust or butter turn rancid, so that gives you a vivid picture of the destruction.

Free radicals can be found in many places; pollution, cigarette smoke, and other compounds. Also, they are formed when your body burns food for energy. They are powerful and your body makes them to kill germs. Too much exposure to sunlight can cause free radicals.

On the other side, thank goodness, we have antioxidants, because they neutralize free radicals. Many vitamins and nutrients function as antioxidants and they limit the damage caused by the free radicals. Antioxidant strength is measured in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) units. ORAC measures how many oxygen radicals a specific food can absorb and deactivate. The more oxygen radicals a food absorbs, the higher its ORAC score. The higher the ORAC score, the better a food is at helping our bodies fight diseases. Nutritionists suggest that people consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day to have an impact on their health. Just one ounce of cherry juice concentrate supplies 3,622 ORAC units, about an entire day's recommendation. .

Antioxidant Ascorbic Acid

An Understandable Explanation

Supplemental Vitamins & 10 Top Foods

Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, as are beta carotene, lutein, coenzyme Q10 and alpha-lipoic acid; and that just lists a few. Your health will benefit from taking a single antioxidant supplements such as Vitamin E but you will do much better by combining a number of antioxidants. Consider taking a cocktail of 4–10 antioxidants or a high potency multivitamin and you may be getting enough.

The top ten antioxidant foods are berries, broccoli, tomatoes, red grapes, garlic, spinach, tea, carrots, soy and whole grains. This is such a great list for me as I like everything on it!

Berries and Cherries- High in Antioxidants


Importance of Antioxidants in Your Diet

There are many foods with antioxidant properties and berries are considered number one, particularly dark berries, like blueberries, cherries and cranberries. Different berries have slightly different types of antioxidants, such as Blackberries have gallic acid, Black raspberries have ferulic acid, Blueberries have anthocyannins, chlorogenic acid and peonidins, and so forth. A growing body of science reveals tart cherries, enjoyed as either dried, frozen cherries or cherry juice, have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, when compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times more than blueberries or strawberries) vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate. Acai berries have been known for generations by certain tribes in Brazil and are also very high in antioxidants

All of these antioxidant play a role in removing free radicals and preventing diseases. Antioxidants are known to fight over 60 diseases including cancer, diabetes, inflammatory, acoustic and cardiovascular diseases to name just a few.

Green Tea with Tea Ball

Today, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. There are three main varieties of tea -- green, black, and oolong. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves and reportedly contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols.



Cloves- a Natural Mediterranean Antioxidant

Antioxidants are also found in places you might not think about such as spices, in this instance cloves. Cloves are commonly used in the Mediterranean diet as a natural antioxidant because they found cloves was the best spice due to it containing high levels of phenolic compounds, as well as, other properties. Cloves had the highest capacity to give off hydrogen, lower lipid peroxidation, and reduce iron.

Crusiferous Vegetables


Broccoli, Califlower, Spinach- Great Sources

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli are protective against colon cancer. In Asia there is a lower incidence of degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease believed to be due to their high consumption of fruits and vegetables, plus green vegetables.

In one Asian study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, they examined detoxification mechanisms of these vegetables that help protect the body. What they learned was the cruciferous vegetables do indeed reduce genetic damage but they protect the body in a secondary way also. In addition, they neutralize free radicals then there is a secondary mechanism of protection against oxidative damage by stimulating the body’s own detoxification mechanisms. This actually helps protect the body from cancer at three different stages. Broccoli was fond to be the most significant vegetable in this study.

Grains with Short Summary

Whole Grains and soy are among the top ten foods with high antioxidants. In the first study of its kind, researchers reported that even some snack foods like popcorn and many of the popular breakfast cereals have surprisingly large amounts of antioxidant substances called polyphenols. Polyphenols are a major reason why fruits, vegetables, and foods like chocolate, wine, coffee and tea have become well known for their role in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The whole grains with the most antioxidants are wheat, corn, oats and rice. The polyphenols are also found in olives, walnuts, tea leaves, grapes and many other foods.


In conclusion, you have the top ten list; you know that the list includes numerous foods so a strict diet is not really required to become healthier. You can win the battle in your body between the free radicals and the antioxidants by just eating more of the right food. Focus the bulk of your diet on the healthiest items for snacks, then increase the fruit and vegetables servings in your daily diet. You may live to be a hundred!

© 2010 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Conradofontanilla, I try to keep my hubs with less technical terms so the average person knows how to combat the damage free radicals cause. I appreciate you comment but it is very technical, which many people might not understand without a background in chemistry.

  • conradofontanilla profile image

    conradofontanilla 6 years ago from Philippines

    No doubt oxygen makes life for man possible. In high altitude atomic oxygen abound that may be miles apart. Near earth molecular oxygen , two atomic oxygen bound together by six electrons, abound. Molecular oxygen with two unpaired electron spinning in parallel direction can be turned into singlet oxygen when UV energizes it and excites one unpaired electron to reverse its spin. When one of its unpaired electron had grabbed another electron it turns into a superoxide which is a master free radical. Superoxides reacting with other can make hydrogen peroxide. superoxide reacting with nitric oxide make peroxynitrite, a reactive oxygen species. In the presence of iron superoxides reacting with each other turn into hydroxyl radical, the most destructive of them all, etc. There should be a balance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    gastroenterology, I agree with you completely. Thank you for your comments.

  • profile image

    gastroenterology singapore 6 years ago

    A diet consisting of fresh and natural foods always brings benefit to the health. Eat a lot of unrefined foods such as wholegrain cereals, bran, honey, lentils, green and leafy vegetables, fresh and dry fruits, and milk products in the form of butter, ghee, and cream. -- this diet are good for anti oxidant, best for our intestinal

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Margaret, I'm so glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • profile image

    Margaret 7 years ago

    Great stuff as usual Pam. The part about the cruciferous vegetables was particularly useful as I was talking to a friend about how beneficial those kinds of foods are. Now I have a resource I can send her to prove my point. The video is also very illustrative. Thanks.


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Thank you all for your comments. I think there is a lot we don't know yet as I did a lot of research as I am interested in this topic. Free radicals are normally made in the body and I agree that it when you have too many that you may suffer from a health problems. We know polution, smoking, many foods, like oreos, create too many free radicals which is why eating healthy food is so beneficial. I didn't think about rye, but I like rye so I may try that lifedancer. They can measure free radical with ORCA that I mentioned above. The only analytical technique that directly measures free radicals is electron spin resonance spectrometry. I would have to do more research to explain it better as this is not my profession. Oxygen has always been here and we obviously can't live without it, but it does cause rust, etc. as I mentioned in the artcle. I may try to do some more research at the library and write another hub as there seem to be a lot of questions that I can't answer. Thanks everyone.

  • profile image

    lifedancer 8 years ago

    I second the comment about the necessity of free radicals, as I just read about that on "Science Daily" and commend your approach to getting nutrients from food. There is so much we don't know yet about the benefits of good food. A grain you missed is the most powerful one, rye. Warning, if you add rye to your cereal in the morning, add 2 tables spoons or less. It is so filling that you will feel like you have a bale of hay in you stomach for 5-10 hours. If you have never purchased cracked or whole rye ( I recommend cracked form) and think it tastes like rye bread, it doesn't. I really has no flavor, or little, in this form. It's the caraway seeds that give the "rye bread" flavor to rye. Just search for the benefits of rye, for lots of info, but don't eat as much as these articles suggest. Small amounts and your tummy will thank you.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    I just arrived back from a short cruse but wanted to thank everyone for their comments. I am too tired to respond much today and will read them tomorrow.

  • Kosmo profile image

    Kelley 8 years ago from California

    It seems that oxygen giveth and it taketh away. Such is life on earth. At any rate, I'll keep drinking green tea, eating my veggies and shunning TV dinners - most of the time. Later!

  • Vladimir Uhri profile image

    Vladimir Uhri 8 years ago from HubPages, FB

    Please explain if Oxygen is culprit then Oxygen was present before the creation of man. God gave us the lung to get it from the air. The man was eternal and could not die.

    Before flood there was much high atmospheric oxygen tension then today. Also before flood people lived longer.

    Atom is not only common for life but also for nonliving matter. The molecule is crucial for life.

    I am not aware if there is available evidence of free radicals, how to measure it or is it only a theory?

    I hope I am not giving you hard time. :)

    Good approach, but many questions.

    If you have research references I would appreciate info. Thanks.

  • rpalulis profile image

    rpalulis 8 years ago from NY

    Wow! I can tell some time and research went into this hub. Very important subject, and you made it very easy to understand. Thanks!

  • XprtEase profile image

    XprtEase 8 years ago

    Hi Pamela,

    nice hub. Just wanted to mention a couple of pointers. While Free radicals are definitely harmful - they are only harmful in large amounts. Free Radicals are also essential to the body for much of our body chemistry and energy generation. Thus, if one were to imagine a situation in which the entire body was made devoid of free radicals - the only possible outcome of such a situation would be death of the said organism. Thus, while anti-oxidants are good they are best consumed in the form of natural foods only as the body extracts and uses what it needs to maintain a healthy balance of free radicals and anti-oxidants. I thus like you article that it supports eating natural food products for gaining anti-oxidant properties rather than capsules or tablets - where the high dose of antioxidants may actually be causing more harm than good!



  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Thank you for your comment.

  • profile image

    Patagonia Maqui Berry 8 years ago

    The Patagonia maqui berry is the new highest rated antioxidant superfruit in the world. The berries are rich in antioxidants at 34%. We had Brunswick Labs give us the proof. Coming to a store near you soon.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Nancy, Thank you for the comment.

  • nancy_30 profile image

    nancy_30 8 years ago from Georgia

    This was a great hub. It had a lot of really good information in it.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Support Med, Thank you so much for all your comments. The cherries really got my attention as well.

  • Support Med. profile image

    Support Med. 8 years ago from Michigan

    Great hub! It seems we can never have enough fruits/veggies and the benefits are great!! I think I'll buy some cherry juice on my next grocery shopping day!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Janny, Thank you for the comment.

  • JannyC profile image

    JannyC 8 years ago

    Great job! This was well written and explained. Again I learned something new.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Anginwu, Thanks for your comment and the congratulations.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 8 years ago

    Pam, congrats on your people's choice award. Love your explanation of free radicals--the most thorough I've seen. Enjoy the read and maybe, another win?

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Alexandria, Thank you so much for the congrats and the comments on the hub.

  • alexandriaruthk profile image

    alexandriaruthk 8 years ago from US

    congratulations Mam for winning the weekly contest. This hub ROCKS again!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Miata, Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you liked my hub.

  • prettydarkhorse profile image

    prettydarkhorse 8 years ago from US

    Hi Pamela, great hub, thumbs up, I like your explanation about free radicals and antioxidants, Thank you, Maita

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Michael Jay and Darlene, Thank you so much for your kind comments. I'm so glad you both enjoyed it. And Michael Jay, congratulations on your win today. I read your excellent hub.

  • Darlene Sabella profile image

    Darlene Sabella 8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

    There is so much to learn, and during the past years our health issues was left to the doctors, now in these days, cost of health care and lack of good care, we must take our health into our own hands. Thanks for a fantastic hub, I really enjoyed it.

  • Michael Jay profile image

    Michael Jay 8 years ago

    This is really a great hub, Pamela! I agree to what TnFlash said that you're very smart. I've learned more information about antioxidants because of this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Jack, Thank you so much for your comment. I love reading about health and I guess being a nurse fits right in, but I also do the research. I use the public library, as well as, the internet.

  • TnFlash profile image

    TnFlash 8 years ago from Tampa, Florida

    Excellent Hub! You are just so smart about this kind of stuff. Thanks for the information. Up-rated.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Katiem, I am glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for your comment.

    Brigitte, I think I may have heard that name but I don't know anything about it yet. I'll check out the site. Thanks for your comment.

  • Brigitte Thompson profile image

    Brigitte Thompson 8 years ago from Austin, TX

    Yes, great info. There is a new product becoming available on the functional beverage market known as Sozo. And has over 625 times the antioxidant potency of fresh blueberries and the antioxidant activity of over 20 servings of fruits and or vegetables.

    I am going to forward your article to everyone in this market. Thank you!

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 8 years ago from I'm outta here

    Great hub, people hear so much about how good they are and that we need them, but why....the why is an important part of the topic. Thanks! Peace:)

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Afternoon tea Fan, I agree and drink at least 2 cups a day. Thanks for your comment

    Jen, Thanks for your comment. The popcorn surprised me so I had to include it as I considered it good news also.

  • Jen's Solitude profile image

    Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

    Great hub explaining antioxidants and free radicals. I especially like the fact that one my favorite snack, popcorn was mentioned. :-) Thanks for the useful info.

  • profile image

    Afternoon Tea Fan 8 years ago

    I say having some green tea readily available in your house or apartment is one of the easiest (and most delicious) ways to take in some powerful antioxidents.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Quill, Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  • profile image

    "Quill" 8 years ago

    Another great Hiub Pamela...Thank you for sharing all this with us...very informative...


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    BPOP, I am so glad you like the hub and thank you for your comments.

  • breakfastpop profile image

    breakfastpop 8 years ago

    I love this hub because it gives out some very valuable information. I may print it and take it grocery shopping with me. Thanks, Pamela.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Tom, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for stopping by.

  • Tom Whitworth profile image

    Tom Whitworth 8 years ago from Moundsville, WV


    Very informative hub. Thank you for all your hard work and research!!!!!!!!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Rev Lady, Thank you so much for compliment. I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

    Mezo, Thank you for your comment.

  • RevLady profile image

    RevLady 8 years ago from Lantana, Florida

    So the internal battle between the old nature and new is not the only battle going on internally? (smile).

    Great hub with great information. Love the way you approached it. The pictures are awesome!! Thanks.

    Forever His,

  • Mezo profile image

    Motaz 8 years ago from Egypt

    insightful and interesting...thanks for sharing


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