What Exactly Are Antioxidants?

sweet potato fries

You have probably heard about the importance of antioxidants, and how it’s vital to make sure you load up on these nutrients. But what is it about antioxidants that make them such powerhouses? With all of the conflicting research out there, sometimes it’s difficult to know what to believe—but one thing everyone will agree on is the importance of antioxidants. A recent study found that 92 percent of Americans were unable to accurately define an antioxidant.

What Are Antioxidants? They are nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals that help to fight damage from free radicals in the body. Pollution, cigarette smoke, chemicals, excessive alcohol, and poor diets all contribute to free radicals, which can be defined as damaged cells. They can rob healthy cells by attacking them and injuring the cell, oftentimes damaging the DNA. This is bad news for healthy cells, since a damaged cell can grow back abnormally. The good news is that your body produces its own antioxidants to protect itself, and you can also get plenty of these nutritional powerhouses through the food you eat.

Where Can You Get Them? Food is a great source of antioxidants: You just have to know where to get them. Vitamin C is prominent in foods such as: cantaloupe, cauliflower, broccoli, oranges, papayas, nectarines, bell peppers, tomatoes, and berries. Foods rich in beta-carotene include: spinach, sweet potatoes, apricots, asparagus, beets, pumpkin, pink grapefruit, peaches, carrots, corn, and squash. Vitamin E-rich foods include: mustard, turnip greens, nuts, sunflower seeds, and chard. You can get zinc from meats and other products, such as: oysters, steak, poultry, beans, seafood, whole grains, and dairy. Selenium can be found in: Brazil nuts, fortified bread, tuna, beef, and poultry.

What Is It That Antioxidants Do? They can help to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, as well as decreasing the risk of age-induced eye diseases. Antioxidants also help to prevent oxidative damage to cells by preventing further damage from free radicals due to environmental toxins.

You can get the flavonoids (antioxidants) you need from various foods, so it’s important to focus on getting plenty of quality fruits and vegetables in your diet. These antioxidants act as your body’s defense system. When in doubt, turn to some of the options listed above to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need to keep your body healthy and strong. 


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

Image Credit: sweet potato fries by satakieli, used under a creative commons license.

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