What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals come from a variety of sources such as air pollutants and cigarette smoke. Examples of antioxidants include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, beta carotene, selenium and lycopene.
These antioxidants are found in many vegetables, fruits and grains. It is beneficial to supplement with a multi-vitamin if you feel you don’t get the daily recommended amount of antioxidants, however, never rely on a supplement for all of your antioxidant needs since there is no proper substitute for the real thing.
Foods Containing Antioxidants
There is a variety of foods containing antioxidants. Vary your food selection to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals necessary:
- Vitamin C. This is primarily found in fruits, such as guava, kiwifruit, papaya, strawberries, oranges, lemons and melon. Additional sources of Vitamin C are red peppers, parsley, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes. It is also present in some cuts of meat, especially liver.
- Vitamin E. The most abundant sources of Vitamin E are vegetable oils, such as palm, sunflower, corn, soybean and olive oil. Peanuts and sunflower seeds are additional sources of Vitamin E, as well as vegetables like corn, asparagus and tomatoes. This can also be found in fortified breakfast cereals.
- Vitamin A. This is found in dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and turnip greens, as well as in other vegetables such as carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Some fruits, such as cantaloupe and apricots, provide a good source of Vitamin A. It can also be found in animal sources like liver, milk, butter, cheese and eggs.
- Beta carotene. The following foods are particularly rich in carotenes: sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro and fresh thyme.
- Selenium. Dietary selenium comes from nuts, cereals, meat, fish and eggs. Brazil nuts are the richest ordinary dietary source. High levels of selenium are also found in meats such as kidney, crab and lobster.
- Lycopene. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit and blood oranges.
A diet rich in antioxidants has been shown to prevent and protect the body from diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis and cataracts.