Antioxidants: Why are they important?
Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and carotenoids, may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Other naturally occurring antioxidants include flavonoids, tannins, phenols and lignans. Plant-based foods are the best sources. These include fruits, vegetables and their juices, whole-grain products, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, and even cocoa.
As a bonus, fruits, vegetables and whole grains high in antioxidants are also typically high in fiber, low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and good sources of vitamins and minerals. So enjoy the variety.
More fruit options
Apples (with peel) are good sources of antioxidants. So are other fruits, such as grapes and most citrus fruits. Eat more stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums and prunes) and tropical fruits (banana, dates, mango and guava). Even pomegranate and olives contribute.
To your health
Toast your health with antioxidant-rich fruit juices, such as pomegranate juice, or a glass of red wine. Even coffee and tea have antioxidants. And while you're celebrating, enjoy a nibble of dark chocolate for another antioxidant boost.
Remember, when it comes to adding antioxidants to your diet, no one food or food group should be your sole focus. Instead, be sure to incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes into your diet.