What Are Antioxidants? Why Should You Include Them in Your Diet?
While new antioxidants are being discovered every day, these nine heavy hitters are the ones you must get on your plate ASAP.
While new antioxidants are being discovered every day, these nine heavy hitters are the ones you must get on your plate ASAP.(Photo: iStockphoto)

What Are Antioxidants? Why Should You Include Them in Your Diet?

Stress, pollution, pesticides and the likes are seeping out health bit by bit from our body… and we let this assault continue till it confronts us full throttle in the form of a serious disease. But there is a way to combat this.

Yes, scoring enough antioxidants on a day to day basis is the solution. Antioxidants help prevent cancer and heart disease, safeguard memory, reduce the risk of degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s, protect joints, soothe pain, reduce muscle fatigue, prevent blindness caused by macular degeneration and cataracts, and even ward off wrinkles. And that is why they are the latest nutrient superstars being courted worldwide but everyone in the know.

Time you got familiar with them too.

• What are Antioxidants?

They are present in foods as vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols, among others.
They are present in foods as vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols, among others.
(Photo: iStockphoto)
Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body.

When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. They act as “free radical scavengers” and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals.

They are present in foods as vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols, among others.

While new antioxidants are being discovered every day, these nine heavy hitters are the ones you must get on your plate ASAP.

• Selenium

(Photo: iStockphoto)

This trace mineral does double duty - besides acting as an antioxidant and helping defend the body from chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, it also speeds up your body's natural antioxidant-making process. Double bonus there!

Best food sources: Fish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, Brazil nuts and garlic.

Also Read : How to Eat Some Eggs, Knock Off the Kilos (And Keep ’em at Bay)

• Vitamin E

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, this antioxidant fights heart disease, boosts immunity, and helps stop cell damage that leads to skin cancer. It also keeps the ravages of time from showing up on our face thus keeping your skin looking younger than it is. It’s everyone favourite beauty antioxidant.

Best food sources: Almonds and hazel nuts, many oils including wheat germ, safflower, corn and soybean oils; also found in mangoes, broccoli and peanuts.

• Vitamin C

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Vitamin C, already famous as a cold antidote, vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, protects our DNA and helps our body use vitamin E more efficiently too. Vitmain C also has a talent for protecting blood vessels and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Multitasker this one!

Best food sources: Citrus fruits like oranges and lime, green peppers, guava, broccoli, amla, green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, strawberries and tomatoes.

Also Read : An Orange a Day May Prevent Age-Related Vision Loss

• Carotenoids

(Photo: iStockphoto)

These neutralise free radicals which may damage cells, bolster cellular antioxidant defences, plus help protect our eyes and skin from sun damage.

Best food sources: Sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, apricots, pumpkin, and mangoes and some green leafy vegetables including collard greens, spinach, and kale.

• Isothiocyanates

(Photo: iStockphoto)

These lesser known antioxidants are known for their cancer protective role, and put cancer-causing enzymes in a headlock.

Best food sources: Broccoli, radish, cabbage, turnip, bok choi and cauliflower.

Also Read : Turmeric and Other Foods That Help Fight Cancer

• Polyphenols

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Polyphenols are micronutrients with antioxidant activity, and those who score enough of these are less likely to develop memory-loss problems such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Best food sources: Dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content, the better), red wine, tea, and coffee.

• Coenzyme Q10

(Photo: iStockphoto)

CoQ10 is a cell-protecting machine. It's also been linked with the prevention of migraines and helps lower blood pressure.

Best food sources: Legumes, soya, sesame seeds, spinach, pistachios, organ meats, chicken breast, and fish (all types). 

Also Read : For a Great Gut Health, Say Yes to These Five Fibre-Rich Foods

• Lycopene

(Photo Courtesy: Pixabay)

It is a potent antioxidant that gives vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, their red colour. They are associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease

Best food sources: Tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit.

• Zinc

(Photo Courtesy: Pexels)

It functions as an antioxidant and is involved in many critical biochemical reactions. It boosts the immune system and is needed for a healthy white blood cell count and for antibody production. Besides being imperative for great looking hair.

Best food sources: Seafood, lean meat, chickpea, milk, cashews and almonds.

Antioxidants are less effective when isolated from food and presented in a supplement form. So it is best to get your antioxidants from a well balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables rather than from supplements.

(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)

(FIT is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Click here and hit the Send button.)

Follow our Chew On This section for more stories.

    Also Watch