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Anti-Oxidants

I've been hearing a lot about antioxidants lately and I know that they're good for you. I'm wondering exactly how they work and what diseases they help with.

Within our bodies millions of processes occur every day, such as turning the foods we eat into energy. These processes require oxygen. Byproducts of using oxygen are called oxidants, often referred to as "free radicals". Free radicals can also be introduced to our bodies through external sources such as tobacco smoke, pollution, and exposure to the sun. In the same way that oxidation can cause rust on the surface of some objects, free radicals can cause damage to cell walls, cell structures and even the genetic material of a cell. If the genetic material of a cell is attacked, this can lead to changes in the body's DNA "genetic blue print" and has been linked to a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidants work to deactivate free radicals by binding to oxidants. Thus, preventing the damage of the free radicals from occurring. Research studying the impact of supplementing the diet with antioxidant-rich vitamins (like vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and selenium) have come up short, but diets high in antioxidant-rich foods have been linked to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. As a result, current national guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease recommend choosing foods rich in antioxidants versus taking supplements. Below is a list of the best food sources of the important antioxidant nutrients. You should aim for a total of 5–9 servings of these foods every day.

Antioxidant Good Food Sources
Vitamin C Citrus fruits and their juices, berries, dark green vegetables red and yellow peppers, tomatoes and tomato juice, pineapple, cantaloupe, mangos, papaya and guava.
Vitamin E Vegetable oils such as olive, soybean, corn, cottonseed and safflower, nuts and nut butters, seeds, whole grains, wheat, wheat germ, brown rice, oatmeal, soybeans, sweet potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils, split peas) and dark leafy green vegetables.
Selenium Brazil nuts, brewer's yeast, oatmeal, brown rice, chicken, eggs, dairy products, garlic, molasses, onions, salmon, seafood, tuna, wheat germ, whole grains, most vegetables.
Beta Carotene Variety of dark orange, red, yellow and green vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, red and yellow peppers, apricots, cantaloupe and mangos.

For more information on a heart-healthy diet plan, please contact:

Reviewed: 12/13

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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