In short, antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals in the body. These free radicals are created in response to a variety of conditions, including poor diet, pollution, smoking, toxins, sun exposure, and medications. Free radicals are also created through normal metabolic processes. We can do our best to minimize exposure to some of these things, but we can’t eliminate them completely from our lives. Free radicals are dangerous because they are highly volatile molecules that can easily damage healthy cells.
The good news is that antioxidants can help neutralize these free radicals so that they don’t damage cells and lead to disease. If your diet includes a variety of fruits & vegetables, chances are you’re already getting the antioxidants you need. As a general rule, antioxidants are found in the more colorful fruits & veggies. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are antioxidants. Therefore, foods high in these vitamins will be high in antioxidants as well.
Foods High in Vitamin C
- Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit)
Foods High in Vitamin E
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanuts & peanut butter
Foods High in Beta-Carotene
- Sweet potato
- Winter squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti, pumpkin)
Turns out that the advice given to kids (eat the rainbow) is good for adults too. Striving to eat a variety of colors of fruits & veggies will help us get the antioxidants we need to stay healthy.