Oxidative stress: what is it about and how is it prevented?

When excessive accumulation of free radicals occurs within cells, it generates oxidative stress. And this excess happens because the antioxidants in charge of eliminating these free radicals are not found in large quantities. For a fact like this, it is important to know what the oxidative stress and how it is prevented.

Free radicals are reactive and at the same time unstable molecules that have their electrons unpaired. Some molecules that are stable have paired electrons, but this would be the opposite case.

Oxidative stress causes strong damage to cells and also to tissues. Then I increase the chances of suffering diseases, such as cancer, neurological pathologies, among others.

Added to this, the presence of oxidative stress generates premature aging in skin cells. It is especially accentuated when the person is eating a diet with few antioxidants. Although other factors that cause a greater appearance of free radicals, is being a smoker, being constantly exposed to the sun, consuming too many alcoholic beverages, among others.

Eating a diet high in antioxidants, combined with a healthier lifestyle, would help prevent the oxidative stress. Apart from that it would also help to fight it, and as a result, the development of multiple diseases is prevented.

[You may also be interested in: How do free radicals harm us and how to avoid them]

What is the origin of oxidative stress?


To understand much better what oxidative stress is about, it is necessary to understand how oxygen works and also free radicals. When you breathe in air through your breath, about 20% of all that air is just oxygen. Oxygen is known to be one of the most important elements that the body needs to live. Allowing each of the cells within the body to function properly.

In this way, when a person breathes, oxygen will be able to reach all cells through the blood. After having passed through the lungs, in order to reach the bloodstream.

Only a small portion of all the oxygen that the body receives is transformed within the cells. Becoming a new reactive substance, which has a certain oxidative activity. And that substance is known as free radicals. These radicals will be necessary to maintain balance within the body.

When the free radicals have fulfilled their oxidative function, they have to be eliminated through the antioxidant compounds. Restoring balance within the body when free radicals are too high.

However, oxidative stress appears as there is little amount of antioxidants, so that it is possible to eliminate free radicals and prevent them from increasing in cells. It means that oxidative stress is the consequence of an excessive amount of free radicals. Being then, a deterioration at the cellular level that could cause alterations in the DNA. Thus causing serious consequences in cells.

Free radicals

Before continuing with what is the oxidative stress, you need to learn a little about free radicals. It has already been mentioned that these are molecules that do not have paired electrons. So they always try to find that electron, which is so missing inside the molecules.

Once said compound obtains that missing electron, an imbalance occurs within the body. Since by obtaining an electron from another molecule, the compound will become somewhat unstable. Then the free radicals will start to spread out very quickly and chaotically, like a chain reaction.

What consequences does oxidative stress generate?

The oxidative stress it is a drawback characterized by the increase in oxidative activity within cells. An increase of this type causes changes both in the functions as well as the structure of the cells. Generating direct consequences such as aging, and also produces a constant apoptosis. Commonly known as the death of cells.

On the other hand, in the presence of oxidative stress, further deterioration of the tissue could occur. Increasing the chances of serious diseases appearing, apart from stimulating premature aging in skin cells. The diseases that could manifest themselves in the face of a problem like this are: Neurological disorders, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, pathologies that are related to aging, among others.

Cell metabolism and oxidative stress

It could be said in a generalized way that the oxidative stress intervenes in cellular metabolism. It does this by oxidizing proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and sugars. That are responsible for regulating the normal functioning that cells must carry. Which could cause a break or mutation within the DNA itself.

There is a way to combat the negative effects of free radicals within the body. And that is by opposing the required amount of antioxidants, starting from various enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Synthesized within the body through the consumption of specific foods. Which will help to prevent constant damage to cells from occurring.

Causes of the appearance of oxidative stress

Among the main causes of the appearance of oxidative stress or a greater accumulation of free radicals, is the diet with few antioxidants. Despite this, it does not mean that this is the only factor causing this problem. There are also other kinds of factors, such as environmental or even contextual conditions.

Within this class of factors are: A prolonged exposure to sunlight, tobacco consumption, either passive or active, imbalance in physical activity, among others. Each of these factors increases the production of free radicals within the body. Also adding the appearance of oxidative stress.

How can oxidative stress be prevented?

The variety of habits that can be applied in order to prevent the oxidative stress, as well as the damage caused in cells. Good nutrition is essential to obtain positive effects, and especially the consumption of foods that contain antioxidants.

There are different types of antioxidants found in food. However, the best known are polyphenols, selenium, vitamins A, C, E and carotenoids. The main function of these antioxidants is to eliminate free radicals. But they also rid the body of various toxic agents, which could cause illness.

Some examples of foods that contain antioxidants are: bell peppers, oysters, spinach, strawberries, walnuts, Green Tea, carrots, among other foods.

Apart from constantly taking care of your diet, it is of great importance to maintain a balance in the food you eat. Avoiding excessive consumption of saturated fat, foods with added sugar, and processed foods. If there is a good combination between foods, the effects generated by antioxidants could not be fully exploited.

How should antioxidants be included in the diet?

Knowing in detail the foods with the highest amount of antioxidants is something that is very helpful. But the truth is that at the time of shopping you do not buy these foods, or are they prepared properly. Because of this, a good way to learn how to include these foods to eliminate the oxidative stress, is learning to distinguish them.

Most foods that contain large amounts of antioxidants have similar characteristics. Fruits and vegetables typically have bright color schemes, and that's an indicator that they contain antioxidants. In other words, red, green, orange, or yellow foods are appropriate for reducing oxidative stress.

Polyphenols, like carotenoids, are the substances responsible for generating these striking colors in food. Therefore, it will be very easy to recognize them in the market just by observing them.

To be more sure that a diet is being implemented to prevent oxidative stress, vegetables and fruits should be included in each of the meals. Always respecting the recommended distribution of five meals a day, in order to achieve the objective and maintain it. The important thing is to learn to vary these foods, avoiding that the diet is monotonous.

It must be remembered that there are also other foods that contain antioxidants apart from vegetables or fruits. Spices, legumes, coffee, and nuts are excellent examples of these foods.

Eating healthy and always in a conscious way is something that must be learned. If there is a chance to give in to at least an occasional whim. But it is advisable to avoid all those products that are not healthy and that generate greater oxidative stress.

Likewise, as already mentioned, it is recommended to lead a lifestyle that is healthy. Performing enough physical activity every day, avoiding alcoholic beverages, tobacco consumption and any other toxic substance for the body. Since all this could cause uncontrolled oxidation within cells.



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