An imbalance between antioxidant defenses and free radicals in your body causes oxidative stress. This can lead to disease or inflammation, but an antioxidant-rich diet can help prevent oxidative stress.

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It can be hard to keep up with the latest updates in our ever-evolving, health-conscious world. You’ve most likely heard advice about eating foods high in antioxidants, getting plenty of sleep, and making time for exercise.

Did you know that the reason for this advice partly relates to oxidative stress?

Having a better understanding of oxidative stress and how it impacts your body can help you make informed lifestyle choices.

We’ve partnered with C60 Power to answer all your questions about oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the production of free radicals, which can potentially damage your cells.

Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with unpaired electrons. They are crucial for certain bodily functions, such as fighting off pathogens. Research also suggests that free radicals may be beneficial in the process of wound healing.

However, because free radicals have an uneven number of electrons, they are more reactive. When they gain an electron from a nearby substance, such as a strand of DNA, they can change or damage the strand’s structure.

Exposure to an excessive amount of free radicals causes oxidative stress in your body. This can happen because of:

  • infection
  • over-exercising
  • exposure to toxins
  • burn injuries

Oxidative stress may lead to adverse health effects such as:

  • disease
  • rapid aging
  • inflammation
  • male infertility

Antioxidants are molecules that can donate an electron to free radicals and neutralize them, limiting a free radical’s ability to cause damage.

Your body naturally produces some free radicals in response to exercise or certain food or drink. For example, drinking alcohol can cause an increase in free radicals.

Additionally, many potential sources of free radicals exist around you, including:

  • cigarette smoke
  • air pollution
  • sunlight
  • industrial chemicals
  • radiation
  • pesticides

Cumulative exposure to free radicals from these sources can lead to oxidative stress and cause cell and tissue damage.

Your environment and habits can influence how likely you are to experience oxidative stress.

The following may increase your risk of oxidative stress:

  • air pollution
  • smoking
  • sun exposure
  • excessive exercise
  • food contaminants such as pesticides
  • alcohol consumption
  • exposure to industrial chemicals
  • radiation
  • medications
  • obesity

Some potential signs of oxidative stress include:

Oxidative stress may also contribute to visible signs of aging, like gray hair and wrinkles.

A small 2020 study found that participants who went gray prematurely had significantly higher oxidative stress levels than those who didn’t.

Lifestyle factors that can increase oxidative stress, such as sun exposure and smoking, may also cause skin damage.

Additionally, oxidative stress can increase your risk for chronic health issues such as:

  • Cancer: Research from 2021 links smoking-related oxidative stress to tissue damage that may cause cancer.
  • Inflammatory diseases: Free radicals may also play a role in causing rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory condition that causes joint pain and damage.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Evidence suggests that oxidative stress is involved in both heart disease and stroke.
  • Neurological disorders: One 2017 review points out oxidative damage plays a role in neurological diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Respiratory diseases: The same reviewalso links lung diseases such as asthma to oxidative stress.
  • Liver disease: Research from 2015 suggests that oxidative stress contributes to alcohol-induced liver injury.
  • Kidney diseases: Oxidative stress may impair kidney function and potentially lead to kidney failure.

Since antioxidants fight free radicals, some experts consider an antioxidant-rich diet helpful in defending against oxidative stress.

Nutrients that are high in antioxidants include:

  • vitamins A, C, and E
  • beta-carotene
  • lycopene
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • phenolic compounds

Many foods contain these nutrients, including:

  • berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
  • leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, and kale
  • citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit
  • bell peppers
  • pumpkin and squash
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • sweet potatoes
  • grapes
  • avocado
  • cherries
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • seeds like sunflowers seeds and sesame seeds
  • seafood like fish, oysters, and shrimp
  • green tea
  • dark chocolate

Studies are mixed on whether supplementing with antioxidants is an effective way to fight oxidative stress.

Making the following lifestyle changes may help prevent oxidative stress:

  • Quit smoking, if you smoke. Smoking increases your risk factor for a variety of diseases.
  • Include more antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. To limit oxidative stress opt for foods high in antioxidants, like fresh berries and leafy greens, and limit your intake of saturated fats.
  • Limit alcohol use. Research suggests heavy alcohol consumption interferes with the body’s defenses against oxidative stress and can lead to a variety of health problems including liver disease.
  • Lower your stress levels. If you’re chronically stressed, you may also have higher levels of oxidative stress in your body. Try finding time to elax or consider starting a meditation routine to ease emotional stress.
  • Protect your skin. While sunlight is an important source of vitamin D, sun exposure is another cause of oxidative stress. Regularly wearing sunscreen helps protect your skin from sun damage.
  • Get physical. Research indicates that moderate exercise is helpful for preventing oxidative stress and beneficial for health in general. But be aware that too much exercise can actually lead to an increase in oxidative stress.
  • Get enough sleep. Getting a solid amount of sleep is crucial for your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links sleep deprivation to several health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
  • Try antioxidant supplements. Some research suggests that antioxidant supplements may have certain benefits, including slowing the progression of osteoarthritis. However, one 2019 study also shows that some supplements may be toxic at high doses.

C60 is an example of a supplement that may provide antioxidant benefits. C60 Power’s Carbon 60 in Organic MCT Coconut Oil is made with 99.99% pure, sublimated carbon 60 (never exposed to solvents).

It’s formulated to be a potent free radical scavenger, helping protect the body from oxidative stress.

That said, more research on the potential benefits and risks of taking supplements is needed. Talk with your doctor to find out if supplements are right for you.

Though your body needs some free radicals to function, exposure to high levels through your environment and lifestyle choices can lead to oxidative stress, potentially causing damage and disease.

Ways to help defend your body against oxidative stress include exercising, sleeping enough, reducing stress, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy diet high in antioxidant-rich foods.