Antioxidants are substances both produced by the body and found in foods that help protect cells from damage. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can yield free radicals, which are harmful molecules that can damage the body if levels become too high. High levels of free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of developing certain diseases.
Antioxidant nutrients include vitamins A, C, E, selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. Many foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, contain these vitamins and have antioxidant properties.