Nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are the primary factors that help prevent development of free radicals in the body, build up the immune system and strengthen it.
Our immune system plays an important role in keeping free radicals in check, limiting the development of cancerous cells and combating cancer.
What are these free radicals and why are they so dangerous?
The air we breathe in contains oxygen, a molecule that helps our body to and function smoothly. Sometimes, metabolic processes, pollution in the air, smoking, and even junk food (yes, that’s right) can create unstable oxygen ions in the body. The oxygen radicals circulate in the bloodstream and ‘snatch’ electrons from the tissues thus destabilizing those ‘attacked’ molecules in the tissues by making them short of electrons. They in turn circulate as free radicals on the lookout for molecules from which they can snatch electrons, thus kick-starting a series of chain reactions . This process is called ‘oxidative damage’.
Anti-oxidants are molecules that interact with free radicals and stop the chain reactions that damage the cells (including DNA) in our body. They help by destroying free radicals in the body and in the process reduce oxidative stress. Apart from building the immune system, they inhibit the gene expression for cancer and induce gene expression that promotes tumor suppression. . Further, they arrest uncontrolled cell division, thereby preventing the development of cancer.
Anti-oxidants that fight cancer include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, phenolics and resveratrol among hundreds of other substances. And these are the substances that are easily available in most herbs and spices in your spice rack. Anti-oxidants in food are measured in units of Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). The FDA recommends 3,000 units of ORAC a day.
It’s true that you can’t get all the anti-oxidants you need from the herbs but the anti-oxidants in herbs can supplement the anti-oxidants you get from fruits and vegetables.