Antioxidants: The Basics

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that increases the production of free radicals, which causes internal damage to cells. Antioxidants are naturally found in foods in the form of vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals, specifically vitamins C, E, selenium, and carotenoids.

How Antioxidants Work

Free radicals are unstable and reactive because they have one or more unpaired electrons. In order for substances to be stable, they must contain paired electrons. Antioxidants are the exception. They are stable with unpaired electrons. Thus, they donate an electron to free radicals. As a result, oxidation is inhibited and antioxidants remain stable.

Causes of Free Radicals

Free radicals are caused within the body by environmental exposure to toxins such as pollution or cigarette smoke.

Exposure to free radicals leads to the following:

  • Cell damage, which increases the risk of common health diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
  • Attack poly-unsaturated fatty acids in lipoproteins and cell membranes, interfering with cellular transport systems
  • Play beneficial roles in reactions to viruses and bacteria
  • Cause DNA mutations

Likewise, a diet rich in antioxidants will promote your health status.

Including Antioxidants to Your Diet

Antioxidants are in a large variety of food! The best way to increase antioxidants is to eat a wholesome diet that includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meat, poultry, and healthy fats. Try your best to eliminate refined foods.

Below are a few examples:

Vitamin C

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach

Vitamin E– foods that contain fat

  • Vegetable oils and spreads: Canola, olive, sunflower
  • Nuts and seeds: Sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts
  • Avocado

Carotenoids– mostly red and orange fruits and vegetables

  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Melon
  • Squash
  • Yam
  • Peppers


  • Organ and muscle meats
  • Milk and yogurt

In conclusion, whole foods contain a variety of antioxidants. Try your best to make wholesome choices and eliminate refined foods.

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