Free radicals are particularly reactive oxygen compounds. They are constantly produced in our bodies, with every breath. Our bodies do need a few free radicals: our immune systems, for example, use them to destroy pathogens. So they’re not only “bad” and “aggressive”. Normally, our bodies maintain a healthy balance between the production and degradation of free radicals. This is the case as long as we have enough protective bodies: antioxidants. Overwork, stress, strenuous exercise, strong sunlight,
chronic diseases and unhealthy nutrition and lifestyle choices
such as smoking and alcohol can all result in too many free radicals, which then wreak havoc in our bodies, damaging cells and overwhelming the body’s own repair crew. We call this “oxidative stress”. It speeds up a number of aging processes, for example, and weakens the immune system. Our behaviour can have an enormous influence on the amount of oxidative stress we subject our bodies to a healthy lifestyle with sufficient rest and relaxation, moderate exercise, and a healthy diet all contribute to reducing oxidative stress. Fruit and vegetables help our bodies keep free radicals in check. This is because plants contain natural antioxidants: grapes contain vitamin C and E, for example, and there are tannins in pomegranates, catechins in green tea, and olives contain oleuropein.