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What are Antioxidants and Why Do You Need Them

Updated on March 23, 2010

If you ever read food labels or watch the news then I am sure you have heard the word antioxidant. Antioxidants seem to be all the rage when it comes to our health and nutrition; the latest fad in the food industry - like margarine was in the 1970's. Unlike fake foods invented by manufacturers and pushed on us by the Food and Drug Administration, antioxidants are naturally found in food and they are incredibly good for you.

According the Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, antioxidant means "a substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides or free radicals". In order to really understand the benefits of antioxidants, we need to understand what free radicals are. You can think of free radicals as bad cells in our bodies. Free radicals are naturally produced by our bodies when we use oxygen. Free radicals also enter our bodies when we are exposed to bad things such as pollution, smoking, and toxins. These free radicals can damage cells, proteins and DNA according to Merriam-Webster's causing heart disease and some forms of cancer.

As you can see, antioxidants are very much needed by our bodies. Just going about our daily lives our bodies produce free radicals. We need to counteract them with antioxidants. If we are exposed to many harmful toxins in our everyday life, the more antioxidants we need. When antioxidants attack the free radicals they are preventing diseases.

Fortunately for us, antioxidants are in almost all of the foods we eat. The more healthy and varied the diet you eat the more antioxidants you will get each day. And no you can't pop a pill to get them. When scientists first discovered antioxidants there were many studies put together to determine whether they could bottle up these wonderful nutrients into a pill form and market it to the public. Because if these antioxidants are so good for us, then the more of them we could get the better, right? Wrong. It turned out that antioxidants in such large quantities are very bad for people and can actually cause diseases, rather than preventing them.

Certain vitamins and minerals are actually antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E and minerals such as lycopene and selenium. As long as you eat a rainbow of foods you should get all you need. Keep in mind that the darker the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidant power there is. So if you are picking out grapes, purple grapes would be a better choice than green grapes because they are darker.

Good Sources of Antioxidants

Here is a quick rundown of foods that provide you the antioxidants that your body needs.

Selenium - meats, eggs, grains, fish, and garlic

Lycopene - think red and pink here - tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon

Lignan - grains such as flaxseed and oatmeal

Lutein - think green - leafy green vegetables such as kale

Vitamin A - think orange - carrots, tomatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes, but some green foods such as broccoli provide lots of Vitamin A as well

Vitamin C - it seems almost all fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, but particularly citrus fruits

Vitamin E - think oils, grains, nuts and seeds

Polyphenols and Flavoids - think purple foods such as red wine, pomegranates and cranberries

This just lists a few of the many antioxidants in our foods. The study of antioxidants is a relatively new scientific field and I believe they are just scratching the surface of these amazing nutrients. If you make sure to eat a varied diet full of fruits and vegetables, you will be assured of getting all the antioxidants your body needs.


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    • lazarusad profile image

      lazarusad 6 years ago from Maple Grove, MN USA

      Nice work!

      Are you aware of any herbal supplements that actually stimulate the body to produce it own antioxidants? And, that our bodies are designed to do so but become overwhelmed by the high ratio of free radicals to antioxidants after the age of 20. Just thought I would add some interesting factoids for you to research.

      Friendly Regards

    • profile image

      Zambroza 6 years ago

      Really good Hub, which explains very clearly what an antioxidant is. I like the fact that you've backed up your explanation with other sources on the benefits of antioxidants too. Good work.

    • Matrix00 profile image

      Matrix00 7 years ago from egypt

      Nice hub page nice pic hit 4u

    • LeonJane profile image

      LeonJane 7 years ago from Australia

      Great info here on antioxidants, thanks. Drinking Tea is also a good source for antioxidants, so if you go for tea instead of coffee you'll be making a healthier choice.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

      nicely done. thanks

    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 7 years ago from Utah

      Yes. Antioxidents are only now becoming understood. Thanks for the great job of compiling information in a usable context.

    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image

      GojiJuiceGoodness 7 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      Great hub & very informative!

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 7 years ago

      Very interesting hub! I'm going to eat some antioxidants right now :)

    • entertianmentplus profile image

      entertianmentplus 7 years ago from United States

      Good info thanks for sharing.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Great hub. Thanks for all the valuable information.

    • profile image

      proudgrandpa 7 years ago

      I appreciate the fact that you really do a thorough job on every one of your hubs. This one especially, as an old guy I need all the help I can get. I am fortunate in that I do eat fairly healthy and am pretty active for a grandpa.

      Thanks for your excellence. NEILK

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for putting so much research into it and sharing it. Great helpful hub.

    • Paula Foster profile image

      Paula Foster 7 years ago


    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Interesting hub.

    • artrush73 profile image

      artrush73 7 years ago

      Great Hub :) We all need the antioxidants :)

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Now that's some good sound information. Awesome Hub! Peace:)

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 7 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Good and scientific.