Free radicals are atoms with an odd number of electrons, and arise normally during our metabolism. Due to the unpaired electron, they are highly reactive and readily interact with other compounds. When they react with the cellular membrane or DNA they may cause irreversible damage, which can accelerate cell death and can lead to cancer and diseases. Antioxidants are the molecules that safely scavenge free radicals, neutralising them before they cause cellular damage. The main antioxidants are vitamins E and C and beta-carotene – the body can’t manufacture these micronutrients so they must be supplied in the diet. You should get enough antioxidants in your diet if you eat fi ve to eight portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Free radicals are the bad guys and antioxidants are the good guys, so if you get enough of them in your diet they should destroy the free radicals before they do serious damage to your cellular make-up.
Whenever the seasons change and the temperature starts to vary, I get flu. Why does this happen and how can I avoid it? When we go from summer into winter and the temperature drops, we spend more time indoors in confined spaces, such as bars and cinemas filled with people (as opposed to beaches and beach cafes, which may be packed but are well ventilated by Mother Nature herself). In these more-crowded and less-ventilated spaces, you are more likely to come into contact with viruses that a sick person in the same confined space could be coughing and sneezing into the air.
Try avoiding crowded spaces at the change of season, in addition, taking a good multivitamin containing antioxidants and plant sterols will help boost your immune system and will help prevent you getting sick.
Dr Craig Roberts is a GP and the team doctor for the Springboks
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