Have you ever thought about what causes aging and the degenerative diseases that come with it? Scientists say that we now have the answer — the primary causes of aging are free radicals and the oxidative stress associated with them.
Free radicals are a natural byproduct of your body's metabolism, but a number of factors have created an environment that causes free radicals to be overproduced. The list below will help you understand just how significant the threat has become.
The reason why antioxidants are receiving so much attention these days is because it's their job to neutralize these free radicals before they can do their damage, thus removing one of the major factors behind all degenerative diseases.
1. Do you eat the Standard American Diet?
Too much of the typical western diet today is comprised of high-fat, high-carb, processed foods that are full of pesticides and chemicals: meat, dairy, bad fats like margarine and vegetable oils, sugar, white flour, and starchy vegetables. These types of foods are typically low in antioxidant content and lead to an overproduction of free radicals.
2. Do you eat less than 6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day?
Fresh fruits and vegetables are your primary sources of antioxidant nutrients, but getting this many servings every day is a challenge. Most people don't.
3. Do you eat "conventionally-grown" fruits and vegetables?
Agricultural techniques used to increase crop yields have led to a lower nutritional value in factory-farmed fruits and vegetables, anywhere from 5 to 40 percent lower in nutrients than those harvested 50 years ago.
In addition, there has been a significant increase in the use of toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In a conventional diet, you are exposed to over 70 pesticide-related pollutants on a daily basis. Combined with lower nutritional content, this leads to an increased production of free radicals in your body.
4. Do you regularly drink alcoholic beverages (other than red wine)?
Alcohol depletes your body of antioxidants and causes free radical formation.
5. Do you eat fried foods often?
A high-fat diet will dramatically increase the amount of oxidative stress to your system. The more fat you eat, the more free radicals your body generates. This is one reason why heart disease and cancer, two conditions associated with free radical damage, are most common in people who consume high-fat diets.
6. Do you eat meat?
I'm not saying that meat is inherently unhealthy, but it does contain much higher levels of pesticides than plant foods. Factory-farmed animals also are injected with hormones and antibiotics, which add to the toxicity level. Cooking meat on a charcoal grill also creates additional carcinogenic substances.
Fish, ordinarily an incredibly healthy food, has its problems, too — high levels of mercury and chemical residues found in most commercial fish. Consuming toxic residues in these foods produces more free radical attacks.
7. Do you eat foods with hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans-fats) in them?
This is like eating a free radical combo, between the poor quality of the food itself, the bad fats and the food additives that almost always accompany foods with trans-fats.
8. How often do you eat fast food?
Regardless of how "healthy" they try to make it sound, fast foods are full of chemicals — that's what makes them taste good!
9. Do you eat packaged and processed food?
There are now over 15,000 different chemicals that are allowed to be put in your food, most of which DO NOT have to be listed on the label. MSG is one of the most common food additives that is typically omitted from the list of ingredients.
10. Do you eat food that has been irradiated?
Irradiation is used to kill organisms like E. coli and salmonella on food. Currently, U.S. food processors are allowed to irradiate beef, eggs, poultry, oysters, fresh spinach, iceberg lettuce and spices, without having to reveal this information.
The FDA maintains that irradiated foods are no different from non-irradiated foods, but the research doesn't back that up. Irradiation breaks up cell walls, destroys chromosomes, kills enzymes, and creates free radicals. Some of the compounds created are known to be cancer-causing (formaldehyde, benzene, lipid peroxides). Others have never been seen or studied before.
11. How often do you consume products containing sugar?
Over-consumption of sugar leads to excess insulin and sugar in the bloodstream, which causes an increase in free radical production and weakens your antioxidant defense system. Sugar is a primary cause of oxidative stress, and leads to heart disease, diabetes and premature aging.
12. Do you regularly consume artificially-sweetened products?
Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are known carcinogens, and create tons of free radicals, especially in your brain. Avoid all artificial sweeteners.
13. Do you breathe the air?
We all know our air quality is bad, but did you know that the oxygen content of the earth's atmosphere has declined by 50% in the past few hundred years? Because your body has less oxygen available from the air you breathe, it creates more free radicals.
14. Do you drink tap water?
Unless you use a whole-house water filtration system, you are being exposed to harmful chlorine, fluoride, and an unknown number of chemicals and toxins in your water supply. You also absorb these through your skin when you shower or bathe. If you're curious about the contaminants in your municipal water supply, visit the Environmental Working Group's National Tap Water Quality Database.
15. How many other environmental toxins are you being exposed to?
There's an ever-increasing level of chemicals in our environment that our bodies have to deal with every day. Very few of these toxins existed just a couple of generations ago.
16. Do you work with toxic products regularly?
You probably don't ever think about the ingredients in all of the household products you use on a daily basis — things like cleaning solutions, paint, glue, laundry detergents, air fresheners, personal care products, etc. Unless they are specifically made organically and bio-friendly, they contain toxic chemicals that you absorb through your skin.
18. Do you spend a lot of time in the sun on a regular basis?
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes free radical damage to your skin. Other sources of ionizing radiation — including medical and dental x-rays — are also sources of oxidative stress.
19. Do you engage in frequent, intense exercise?
What??? Strenuous exercise causes your body to burn more oxygen. This creates an increase in free radical production, which happens when cells use oxygen to convert food into energy.
After exercise, the body repairs most — but not all — of the damage. This damage accumulates over time and may lead to premature aging of your cells — unless you have ample reserves of antioxidants in your system. Endurance athletes, in particular, should be aware of the importance of maintaining a high level of antioxidants.
21. Do you spend a lot of time every day in close proximity to electronic devices?
Although not widely known, electronic appliances and power lines pose a serious health hazard. When you think about it, electricity is a relatively new phenomenon in the evolution of the human race.
According to scientists studying this problem, we are now being exposed to hundreds of millions more times the amount of electromagnetic radiation than our grandparents’ generation ever was! And that means a lot more oxidative stress to your body.
22. Do you regularly use a cellphone or other wireless devices?
Cellphones, cordless phones, radar, television and radio transmission waves, and all wireless devices emit their own type of electromagnetic radiation that is just as harmful as electrical devices. Cell phones are a prime suspect in the formation of certain types of brain tumors.
23. Do you get sick often?
The body responds to any attack from viruses and bacteria by producing free radicals to fight off the invaders. If you don't have enough antioxidants in your system, your immune system won't stand a chance.
24. Are you taking any prescription medicines?
Regardless of whether they are effective or not, prescription drugs are toxic substances that create a free radical response in the body. It's what they call "side effects."
The development of all these conditions are caused, in large part, from a lack of antioxidants. Once the disease has developed, your body increases its production of free radicals to try and heal itself. This, in turn, demands even more antioxidant reserves.
If you've gone through the entire list, right now you're probably wondering how you're still alive! Why not take a moment to acknowledge the miracle that is your body. You possess a magnificent machine that can hold up as well as it does, for as long as it does, in the face of this constant assault of oxidative stress. Just think of what it could do if you gave it all of the nourishment it needs!
We're living in a completely different environment than people did just a hundred years ago, but the human body hasn't fundamentally changed for thousands of years. Our bodies have not had the evolutionary time needed to adapt to all these attacks from the modern environment.
The human body was designed to be healthy, vibrant, and free from disease. It is also meant be its own self-repair organism. It will do that job wonderfully — if it gets the proper fuel and nutrients it needs, especially antioxidants.
Antioxidants give your body the protection you need to defend yourself from free radicals and oxidative stress. Antioxidants also determine your aging process; they are the nutritional secret to a longer life.
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