Antioxidants are a certain type of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. They help protect your body from some health problems, such as:
cancer artery and heart disease arthritis cataracts
What food source is the nutrient found in?
Foods high in beta-carotene include most red, dark orange, and deep yellow fruits, such as:
- sweet potatoes
Foods high in vitamin C include:
- citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines
- Brussels sprouts
- bell peppers
- potatoes with skin
Foods high in vitamin E include:
- wheat germ
- vegetable oils
- whole grains
Foods high in selenium include:
- organ meats
- lean meats
- 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 occurs in the body, free radicals can lead to the onset of problems.
The following events can lead to the creation of free radicals in your body or expose you to them in the environment.
- 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 free radicals form faster than the body can break them down, damage to cells and tissues can occur.
Antioxidants may help counteract the damage caused by free radicals in two ways.
- They help the body prevent the formation of free radicals
- 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.
Researchers continue to study whether taking higher amounts of antioxidant supplements can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Questions include how much would be needed, how long they would need to be taken, and what would be the long-term side effects. The results so far have been inconclusive.
Some studies have indicated a benefit, some no effect and some even indicate harm.
In the meantime, experts recommend that people eat a balanced diet low in saturated fat with at least 5 servings per day of fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of whole grains. This diet provides good sources of the nutrients that help promote health and fight disease. These nutrients include antioxidants, dietary fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.