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What are antioxidants?

Joy Dubost, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Before we start discussing antioxidants, we first need to talk about free radicals since they go hand in hand. A basic definition of free radicals is unstable compounds that are looking to react or "connect" with anything in its presence. Free radicals are needed for normal functioning of our bodies. However, if our bodies produce or are exposed to too many free radicals, then our cells can be damaged. Overexposure of free radicals to our cells can overtime ultimately lead to various diseases. Antioxidants become so important because they can help combat free radicals and help provide protection from the harmful effects of free radicals. What is so key here is there needs to be a balance between free radicals and antioxidants for proper functioning of our bodies.

Fruits and vegetables are a great way to obtain numerous antioxidants. Research has also indicated that tea, coffee, grains, nuts, spices and many people's favorite, red wine and dark chocolate also contain high levels of antioxidants. What is important is that you consume a variety of these products to ensure you are receiving not just enough antioxidants but a variety of these different compounds.
Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, E, and A and other substances.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.