Christian Living

Healthy Living

Free Radicals: Why They're Bad, How to Beat Them

Most of us have heard the terms, "anti-oxidants" and "free radicals," but if we're honest, most of us don't really know what they mean. It's important to know, because, as they say, knowledge is power.

When we understand what's going on inside our bodies on the cellular level, that knowledge will motivate us to make the correct choices.

On the cellular level, there are certain chemical reactions that are normal and natural....within reason. But when our behavior becomes excessive, all sorts of dangerous stuff happens to our body. God made our bodies perfectly, but we have to do our part. In other words, we must eat the right foods, exercise enough, sleep enough, drink enough water, and have inner peace (found only through Jesus).

If we eat too much junk food, don't move enough, become sleep deprived, get dehydrated, and live stressed-out, it's no wonder our bodies start to break down. We understand the principle of car maintenance, about how we have to get the oil changed, tires rotated, fuel in the engine, etc., why is it that we discount the need to keep the various aspects of our body maintained?

One of the normal functions of our inner body is the radicalization of oxygen molecules. Because of what's been in the news recently, most of us understand that when something is "radicalized" it is changed into a super-charged form. So it is with oxygen molecules. They become radicalized when they become electrically charged. Then their name is changed to "oxygen-free radicals," or "free radicals" for short.

Now, in the right balance, free-radicals are good, because they are used by the immune system to fight bacteria and ward-off illness. But the problem is, most of us have way, way too many free-radicals and the end result is destruction.

That is not a term to be understood lightly. Free-radicals destroy, a little or a lot, some of the most important foundations of our health, such as our cell membrane and our DNA. This free-radical overload has a name: it's called "oxidative stress."

Oxidative stress is the root cause for whole host of health issues, not the least of which is cancer. And, oh, by the way, oxidative stress makes you look old, in case you're most interested in how you appear to others than about your inner health! So no matter what your motivation, oxidative stress, the excess of free-radicals, is something each and every one of us should be trying to avoid.

The good news is we have an enormous amount of control over our own oxidative stress, because the build-up of free-radicals that cause it is spawned by lifestyle choices.

Oxygen molecules become radicalized by:


First, let's look at what foods cause radicalization of oxygen:

SUGAR: This stuff is poison. Even all-natural honey and raw sugar, but especially high fructose corn syrup. The reason we should avoid it all is because of the amount of sugar we consume. It's estimated the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year.

God obviously intended us to consume some sweets, otherwise He wouldn't have given us honey and sugar. But clearly, it is not in His plan for us to consume these horrific amounts. If we shoot for a no sugar diet, we will probably end up consuming an acceptable amount, when you consider the occasional piece of birthday cake, etc. Think very small amounts, very sporadically.

REFINED CARBOHYDRATES: These are foods that, as far as our body is concerned, turn into sugar once we eat them. These are foods like white bread, white pasta, white bagels, english muffins, flour tortillas, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, breading on any kind of meat or vegetable, etc.

TRANS FATS: Again, POISON. Trans fats are the most dangerous, disgusting food we can consume. Because, unlike sugar and refined carbohydrates, our bodies are completely ill-equipped to metabolize trans fats.

You see, trans fats can not be found in nature. They are manufactured in a lab. They benefit food manufacturers who want to increase their profits by prolonging the shelf-life of their foods and make them more appetizing, which they do, in spades.

But at what cost? The second highest of all (behind your spiritual health) prices to pay: your physical health. Trans fats are also known as HYDROGENATED oils, because they are manufactured by infusing an oil with hydrogen. Just like high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, trans fats are in nearly every processed food. Check the list of ingredients. Run for your life if you see the word, "hydrogenated" because that's your red flag signalling trans fat.

OMEGA-6 FATS: Although Omega-6 fats are technically good, we consume way, way too many of them and that causes big trouble. Omega-6 fats are actually considered an essential fatty acid. That's how necessary they are to our good health.

But it's important to understand that another essential fatty acid is Omega-3 fats. God made us to consume these two essential fatty acids in equal, or near equal amounts because they literally compete with each other. Sadly, the average American consumes 20 times more Omega-6 fats than Omega-3 fats, and that gross imbalance is what is so destructive to our bodies.

So drastically cut back on Omega-6 fats and make a effort to increase your Omega-3 consumption. Unfortunately, that's tough to do. The proliferation of Omega-6 fats in our food supply and the lack of Omega-3s is staggering. Omega-6s are found in vegetables oils, such as corn oil, which is in, you guessed it, processed foods.

So if a food product or restaurant brags about "no trans fats" you can bet they replaced the trans fat with an Omega-6. Olive oil is neither a trans fat nor an Omega-6, so it's a good choice as long as you don't get it too hot...make a salad dressing of 3 parts olive oil, one part vinegar, then add whatever else you want like herbs and mustard.

By the way, most store-bought salad dressings are loaded with Omega-6s. For high temperature cooking, use coconut oil, which is fabulous in so many ways (see other blogs). Omega-3 fats are really only found in cold water fish, like salmon. So make sure to take fish oil supplements, enough to consume 750 mg of DHA daily. Some foods convert to Omega-3s, such as walnuts, flax, and chia seeds, but not all of our bodies convert them well.

So now that you know how to stay away from foods and activities that lead to the radicalization of oxygen molecules, stick to activities and foods that have the opposite effect. That is anti-oxidants. Topping the list: organic vegetables. Exercise vigorously daily. You may need to work-up to this, and like the sugar rule, if you aim high, what you actually end up doing is still in a very good range.

And most importantly (oh, I buried the lead, shame on me!) develop your relationship with Jesus. Spending time in His word, spending time in prayer and spending quiet time just listening to him is invaluable to your health. He instructs us to do these things because they first and foremost lead to eternal rewards, but also rewards here in this life.