Antioxidants are chemicals that block the activity of other chemicals known as free radicals. Free radicals are formed naturally in the body, for example during exercise, but some environmental toxins contain high levels of free radicals and can stimulate the production of more free radicals by the body. Free radicals are highly reactive and have the potential to cause damage to cells, including damage that may lead to cancer. Antioxidants are natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.

Powerful antioxidants include:

  • Beta-carotene and Vitamin A, C & E – these are some of the most important and food stuffs containing them are highlighted below
  • Lutein
  • Lycopene
  • Selenium

Some antioxidants are made naturally by the body. Others can only be obtained from external sources, including the diet and dietary supplements. Vegetables and fruits are rich sources of antioxidants. Evidence shows that eating a diet with lots of vegetables and fruits lowers the risks of developing certain diseases.

Antioxidants are usually found in colourful fruits and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues.

Beta-carotene and other carotenoids are found in apricots, asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, melon, carrots, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, cantaloupe and watermelon.

Vitamin C is found in berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, tomatoes, all peppers.

Vitamin E is found in broccoli, carrots, chard, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds.

To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed.

Written by: Jo Gaskill

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