A group of organic nutrients found in many types of food that slow down the formation of substances in the body that are particularly harmful to cells and tissues. These harmful substances are formed by a process that occurs when oxygen in the air we breathe causes a chemical reaction in the cells of the body known as “oxidation,” which is a byproduct of normal metabolism. The result of oxidation is the formation of molecules known as “free radicals,” which can damage cells and tissues in the body, increasing the risk of certain cancers, heart diseases, and other illnesses. Antioxidants are believed to slow down the formation of free radicals, protecting the body by diminishing and repairing damage to cells and tissues.
Among the many types of antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E; selenium (a mineral); and a group of organic substances known as carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. (Carotenoids are pigments that add the color to a majority of fruits and vegetables.) Maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains will often supply adequate amounts of antioxidants; however, vitamin supplements can also be used to ensure that beneficial amounts of antioxidants are being consumed.
Fruits and Vegetables: Good Sources of Antioxidants
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