Antioxidants are substances that can prevent and repair damage to the body's cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the body as a natural part of the aging process.
During times of illness and stress and when you're exposed to environmental toxins such as pollution, cigarette smoke, UV rays and unhealthy foods, your body produces more of them, meaning that your need for antioxidants increases.
Over time free radical damage can lead to serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease and cancer.
Antioxidants include nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamins C and E and selenium and other naturally occurring substances such as lutein and lycopene. Antioxidants should come from whole food sources versus supplements because antioxidant-rich foods are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and other beneficial substances that work synergistically to boost health.
Learning to enjoy a variety of plant-based foods including deep-coloured fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes that are easy to prepare and meeting the recommended number of servings of each is the key to getting enough and reaping the benefits.