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Importance of Antioxidants In Foods

Importance of Antioxidants In Foods

Antioxidants are an important component of our health and most often come from food. Knowing which food sources provide the types of antioxidants that our bodies need is important to health and wellness.

Antioxidants combat oxidation and oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are a natural byproduct (waste) of normal body functions, such as when our bodies process food, UV exposure (sunlight) and toxins such as pollution or cigarette smoke. Free radicals come after our body’s healthy cells. Antioxidants protect our cells from free radicals by either stopping them entirely or breaking them down so that they cannot hurt us.

Examples of antioxidants are: vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein) and the minerals selenium and manganese. Flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols and phytoestrogens all come from plants and are antioxidants as well.

What types of foods contain these antioxidants?

Learn more about what types of foods contain the following antioxidants.

Vitamin E

A fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E, combats the free radicals in your body that attack fats in the cell wall. It may help to prevent cardiovascular disease. You can find vitamin E in whole grains, olive oil, sunflower oil and canola oil, as well as nuts and green leafy vegetables.


Selenium is a mineral found naturally in soil and water and can be found in foods such as grains, onions, garlic, nuts, soybeans, seafood, meat and liver. Research has shown that this may help protect against cancer.

Vitamin C

A water-soluble antioxidant, your body stores vitamin C in water. It may help prevent certain types of cancer, including that found in the digestive system and lungs. You can find this in citrus fruits, raw green vegetables and tomatoes.


Flavonoids can be found in different combinations in different plants. Scientists have identified thousands of flavonoids, which are antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids may help prevent cancer and can be found in foods such as berries, grapes, green tea, and apples.


Scientists have identified hundreds of carotenoids that can be found in our foods. Examples of carotenoids are beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein. Look for foods that are a deep yellow, red or orange color as a main indicator that they contain this antioxidant. For example: mangoes, tomatoes, carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes. Also dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, brussel sprouts and broccoli contain carotenoids.

There is not any one type of food that contains all of the antioxidants our bodies need to fight oxidative stress. Therefore, a good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to including foods in your diet that contain antioxidants is to eat whole and natural foods. Also, eat a variety of colored foods daily to increase your antioxidant intake.

For help with determining what foods to include in your diet that are rich in antioxidants to help your body fight oxidative stress, contact the registered dietitian nutritionists at The Nutrition Professionals today.