Oxygen is the most abundant element on earth, and thus it is everywhere, inside and outside of our bodies. Oxygen is an extremely unstable element and must share its electrons with other elements. This process is called oxidation, rusting, decaying, or aging. Unstable molecules of oxygen that haven’t been saturated and bounded with other elements are also called “free radicals.”
Oxidation changes the nature of other elements in exactly the same way a piece of iron becomes rusted. A rusted piece of iron is not iron anymore; it is something else. The same process is happening in our bodies. Free, unstable oxygen molecules are wandering around in our bodies, looking to take electrons or bind to other elements. This process keeps happening and keeps damaging our valuable cells.
There is another name for this never-ending damage process, and it is called “aging.” In scientific industries, engineers use another unstable but generous element, like sodium, that loves to donate electrons next to iron. So, oxygen gets extra electrons from these generous electron-donating elements and leaves the iron intact.
In the human body, based on the same concept, if there are enough generous electron-donating elements around, the oxygen gets extra electrons from those elements and stops damaging our body’s valuable organs.
As a rule of thumb, foods that decay faster in nature have more affinity to bind to oxygen than our body’s cells. Vitamin E, C, and many other elements are believed to have more affinity to bind to oxygen than our normal body cells and are considered antioxidants. Fresh fruits and green vegetables are among the best antioxidants.
If something can stay unchanged outside our body, it most likely doesn’t have a large affinity for oxygen and likely won’t be a good antioxidant. This is why some believe fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than chemically-engineered pills and supplements, are perfect for neutralizing free radicals in our bodies.