Natural Sources of Antioxidants

Photo Credit: Dimitar Nikolov CC-BY-2.0 2012

Waste products produced by cells include unstable molecules called “free radicals,” which can cause cell damage. Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down food and from exposure to environmental contaminants, such as tobacco smoke and pesticides. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from the cells. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant nutrients. Antioxidants are also found in nuts, beans and whole grains. Vitamins C and E are also antioxidants. Other nutrients that help remove free radicals from the body include  anthocyanins, beta-carotene, catechins, coenzyme Q10, flavonoids, lipoic acid, lutein, lycopene and  selenium. People who eat a balanced diet that includes antioxidant rich foods should get enough of the nutrients to help prevent cell damage from free radicals. Eat a diet rich in vitamins A, C and E to be sure you get enough antioxidant nutrients. 
The best sources of natural antioxidants are berries. Blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries and blueberries are high in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. Red beans, black beans and pinto beans are abundant in fiber, plant proteins and antioxidants. Avocados, cherries and plums are also a good source of free radical fighting nutrients. The skin of apples and pears contains many nutrients and antioxidants. Wash apples and pears thoroughly to remove pesticide residue and eat the fruit with the skin for maximum nutritional benefit. 

Vegetables are also a good source of antioxidant nutrients and vitamins. Broccoli, artichokes, spinach and red potatoes are rich in nutrients to help fight cell damage, as are sweet potatoes and red cabbage. Be careful not to over-cook vegetables. Cooking may break down natural antioxidant nutrients and lessen their effectiveness at removing free radicals from your body. Steamed, grilled and sauteed vegetables are not only delicious, but nutritious. Raw vegetables in salads is an excellent way to get your vegetable nutrition.  

Spices and herbs, such as ground cloves, cinnamon and ginger, dried oregano leaf and turmeric powder are all good sources of natural antioxidants. Green tea, coffee, red wine and pomegranate juice have high levels of antioxidants. 
For more information about antioxidant supplements, see:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Antioxidant Supplements for Health: An Introduction

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