Overview & Description

Antioxidants are a certain type of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. They help protect your body fromsome health problems, such as:

  • cancer
  • artery and heart disease
  • arthritis
  • cataracts

Beta-carotene,vitamins C andE, andselenium are theantioxidants that have been studied the most.


Researchers are now studying whether taking higher amounts of antioxidantsupplements can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They continue to study how much would beneeded, how long they would need to be taken, and what would be the long-term side effects. Theresults will not be known for a few more years.

In the meantime, experts recommend that people eat a balanced diet low in fat with at least 5 servingsper day of fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of whole grains. This provides good sources of thenutrients that help promote health and fight disease. These nutrients include antioxidants, dietaryfiber, and other vitamins and minerals.

Functions and Sources

What food source is the nutrient found in?

Foods high in beta-carotene include most red, dark orange, and deep yellow fruits, such as:

  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • pumpkins
  • apricots
  • cantaloupe
  • peaches
  • broccoli

Foods high in vitamin C include:

  • citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • bell peppers
  • kiwi
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes with skin

Foods high in vitamin E include:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • almonds
  • wheat germ
  • vegetable oils
  • whole grains

Foods high in selenium include:

  • seafood
  • organ meats
  • lean meats
  • poultry
  • low-fat dairy products
  • whole grains
How does the nutrient affect the body?

Oxidation is the reason why a cut-up apple turns brown, or why vegetable oil turns rancid.Oxidation is caused by chemicals called free radicals. Just as in the apple and oil, when oxidation occursin the body can lead to the onset of problems. The following events can lead to the creation of freeradicals in your body or expose you to them in the environment.

  • breathing
  • the break down of protein that you’ve eaten
  • inhaling cigarette smoke
  • exposure to air pollution
  • UV radiation

A healthy body can usually break down free radicals before they become harmful. If freeradicals form faster than the body can break them down, damage to cells and tissues can occur.

Antioxidants help counteract the damage caused by free radicals in two ways.

  • They help the body prevent the formation of free radicals in the first place.
  • They can reduce the effect that free radicals have on the body.

Then the free radicals cannot damage cells and tissues or cause health problems.

Article type: xmedgeneral