Antioxidants are substances that help reduce or prevent cell damage in the body. They are naturally found in food groups such as fruits and vegetables, which also provide essential vitamins. Research has suggested that diets high in fruit and vegetable intake lower the risks of certain diseases. (1)
More research is needed to determine whether this association is the result of antioxidants or other factors. Current studies have suggested antioxidants eliminate free radicals and reactive chemicals that can lead to chronic illness (2).
Related: Healthy Eating Habits
Health Benefits of Antioxidants
Although free radicals form naturally in the body, as a result of exercise and digestion, being exposed to significant amounts can lead to a process known as oxidative stress. (3)
Oxidative stress refers to disproportionate levels between the production and buildup of reactive oxygen substances in the body. (4)
Diets rich in antioxidants help fight off oxidative stress, which is believed to contribute to chronic conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cardiovascular disease. (5)
Related: Heart Healthy Awareness
Antioxidant Rich Foods
Acquiring the right amounts of antioxidants can be achieved through a healthy and balanced diet. The following list provides some of the nutrients and food sources that are rich in antioxidants.
** Disclaimer, consult with a medical professional before making any significant changes to your diet.
- Vitamin C: Plays an essential role in the production of collagen, wound healing, and chemical messengers that regulate brain and nerve function. Vitamin C is easily absorbed into the body’s tissues, due to its water-solubility. As a result, it’s able to neutralize oxidative substances and free radicals. (6) Food sources rich in vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, lemon, kale, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
- Carotenoids: Found naturally in plants, carotenoids are a form of vitamin A which is needed for maintaining the body’s cellular communication, immune function, and supporting healthy vision. (7) Good food sources of carotenoids include carrots, apricots, tomato juice, cantaloupe, sweet potato, spinach, salmon.
- Vitamin E: As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E aids in the body’s ability to protect cells from free radical damage. Research has discovered that free radical damage is involved in the beginning stages of cardiovascular diseases. (8) Due to its ability to provide cellular protection, consuming foods rich in vitamin E may help reduce the incidence of certain heart disease. Antioxidant-rich food sources of vitamin E include collard greens, spinach, wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds
- Zinc: Zinc is a trace mineral that plays a significant role in building proteins, healing damaged tissue, and helping over 100 enzymes in the body carry out their chemical functions. (9) Zinc deficiency can lead to adverse health outcomes, especially in children where it can result in impaired growth. In adults low amounts of zinc cause a decrease in hormone concentration, hair loss, and reduced immune response. Foods rich in zinc include whole grains, beef, poultry, pork.
Antioxidants are an important part of staying healthy. While their presence in the body provides many benefits, it’s important to remember that good health requires making small changes over a period of time. With consistency, you can create the right approach toward living a healthier and happy life.