One type of stress to be aware of is oxidative stress, which occurs when free radicals overwhelm your body’s ability to regulate them. For proper physiological function, it’s necessary to have a balance between free radicals and antioxidants.
Free radicals are natural byproducts of ongoing biochemical reactions within the body and external factors outside the body. Internally, they can result from ordinary metabolic processes and immune system responses.
Externally, free radicals can result from various sources, including:
- Natural and artificial radiation
- Tobacco smoke
- Lack of sleep
The Dangers of Oxidative StressAccording to the Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education at Stanford, “free radicals can cause damage to parts of cells such as proteins, DNA, and cell membranes by stealing their electrons through a process called oxidation.” When this process happens, it causes cells to lose their ability to function normally and possibly die.
Oxidative stress can contribute to conditions such as:
- Neurological disorders
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Most vegetables have hundreds—if not thousands—of compounds, each impacting your health and well-being.
Here are three types of plant foods that help prevent oxidative stress and inflammation.
1. Fruits and VegetablesFruits and vegetables are loaded with polyphenols, which help give them their color and protect them from damage by insects and the sun. When ingested, polyphenols also act as antioxidants in your body to fight free radicals and prevent damage to cells.
Fruits that contain high levels of polyphenols include:
2. Herbs and SpicesVarious herbs and spices have compounds called terpenoids, which possess strong plant antioxidant activity and may boost the body’s defenses against oxidative stress.
Herbs and spices that contain high levels of antioxidants include:
3. Legumes and BeansLegumes and beans also help the body fight oxidative stress, mainly through phenolic compounds.
Legumes and beans with the highest levels of antioxidants include:
- Black beans (contain the highest level due to amount of anthocyanins, which give their dark hue)
- Dried beans
- Folic acid and B vitamins
- Moving your body
- Deep breathing
- Resting and relaxing
- Meditating and praying
- Surrounding yourself with a supportive community
- Taking time to enjoy yourself
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.