What are antioxidants?

Any substance that inhibits oxidation is considered an antioxidant. In nutrition, antioxidants may affect the body at the cellular level. Antioxidants have become popular lately because it is alleged that they can reduce aging. This is not been verified, however, at the molecular level, there is some evidence that antioxidants reduce inflammation.

Why is inhibiting oxidation important?

Some oxidation of cells is necessary for the body, but too much oxidation at the cellular level creates oxidative stress. This may lead to chronic inflammation at the cellular level, and that excessively damages cells. Inflammation is now a subject of considerable research. Scientists are questioning whether some serious conditions such as heart disease may be aggravated by inflammation.

What role do antioxidants play in diet and nutrition?

By themselves, antioxidants are not a fountain of youth. A healthy diet, exercise, and controlling your weight are still the best ways of maintaining good health throughout your life. But antioxidants may aid in developing a healthy nutrition.

If you examine the foods that nutritionists and researchers believe are rich in antioxidants, you will notice a trend.

  • leafy vegetables
  • fruits
  • vegetables in many colors

Sound familiar? You have been hearing about these foods for a long time.

Antioxidants found in foods we should eat

Beta-carotene – the orange antioxidant, found in fruits and vegetables that are orange in color:

  • carrots
  • cantaloupe
  • squash
  • apricots, pumpkin, and mangos.
  • leafy vegetables including collard greens, spinach, and kale are also rich in beta-carotene.


Lutein, the yellow antioxidant, found concentrated in the macula, a small area of the retina. It is theorized that lutein plays a role in protecting the eye from damage due to light.

  • Green, leafy vegetables (collard greens, spinach, and kale)
  • Egg yolks
  • Animal fat (the yellow color of chicken skin and fat comes from lutein)

Lycopene, the red antioxidant

  • tomatoes
  • watermelon
  • guava
  • papaya
  • apricots
  • pink grapefruit
  • blood oranges

Related antioxidants

Some substances exhibit antioxidant properties, and should considered in planning a diet that is rich in antioxidants

Selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties, is found in crops in varying amounts depending on the level of selenium in the soil. Grazing animals may also take up selenium.

certain nuts
Vitamin A

sweet potatoes
eggs, and certain cheeses

Vitamin C

present in many fruits and vegetables

Vitamin E

corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil
almonds and other nuts

Green tea as an antioxidant

Teas are processed after they are grown, and that processing may or may not contribute to the level of antioxidants in specific types of tea. Nevertheless, tea seems to contain a good deal of antioxidants. Many claims point to the low incidence of cardiovascular disease in cultures that consume tea regularly, but the truth may be more complicated. The diet and lifestyle of people living in Asia may contribute a lot to their overall health.

Antioxidants and multivitamins

Recent studies have been published that disparage vitamin supplements altogether. The position of these researchers is that multivitamins have no beneficial effect in combating chronic health problems. This captured headlines recently, but these are the results based on limited study. More…

Antioxidants and cancer

Pioneering geneticist and Nobel laureate James Watson has proposed that antioxidants may actually inhibit the effectiveness of cancer treatments in people who have late-stage cancers. Other studies suggest that antioxidants may increase the likelihood of developing cancers in people whose lifestyle already exposes them to possible health risks. For instance, a person who smokes may have a better chance of developing lung cancer if they take supplements that contain beta-carotene.