What Do Antioxidants Do?

Antioxidants are nutrients in food that protect your cells from damage from free radicals.

  • Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage your cells. Your body creates them when you digest food or breathe in pollution.
  • This cell damage may increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, cataracts, diabetes, or infections. Free radicals may also affect brain function.

Tips for Getting More Antioxidants

  • AntioxidantsEat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. The colors
  • of fruits and vegetables are clues about the types of nutrients they provide. To get a variety of nutrients, eat a variety of colors.
  • Be adventurous in the produce section:


    • Choose a colorful fruit or vegetable you have never tried before.
    • Encourage your family to pick a new fruit or vegetable each time you shop.
  • Plan at least two dinners per week with beans as the main source of protein. Good choices are rice and beans or hearty bean soups.
  • Experiment with fresh herbs and spices.
  • Choose whole grain products, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Add nuts to salads, soups, and cereal.

Types of Antioxidants

Many nutrients are antioxidants. Examples include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Anthocyanins
  • Beta carotene
  • Catechins
  • Ellagic acid
  • Lutein
  • Lycopene
  • Resveratrol
  • Selenium

Foods probably contain other anti- oxidants that are still undiscovered. Eating a wide variety of foods will help you get the full benefit of these antioxidants.

Which Foods Have Antioxidants?

Vitamin ELycopene, vitamin C

Food Antioxidant Nutrients
Acorn squash, pumpkin, winter squash Beta carotene
Apples Catechins
Apricots, cantaloupe, peaches Beta carotene
Beans Catechins, vitamin E
Beets Anthocyanins
Bell peppers Beta carotene, vitamin C
Berries Anthocyanins, catechins, ellagic acid (in raspberries and strawberries), resveratrol (in blueberries), vitamin C
Broccoli, greens, spinach Beta carotene, lutein, vitamin C
Brown rice Selenium
Carrots Beta carotene
Chicken Selenium
Citrus fruits Vitamin C
Corn Lutein
Egg Lutein (in yolks); selenium, vitamin A
Eggplant Anthocyanins
Garlic and onions Selenium
Grapefruit, pink Lycopene, vitamin C
Grapes, red wine Anthocyanins (in red and purple grapes), resveratrol
Mango and papaya Beta carotene, vitamin C
Milk Vitamin A
Nuts, nut butters, oils, seeds Vitamin E
Oatmeal Selenium
Peanuts Resveratrol
Prunes Anthocyanins
Salmon, tuna, seafood Selenium
Sweet potatoes Beta carotene, vitamin C
Tea, black or green Catechins
Tomatoes (canned) Selenium
Watermelon Lycopene, vitamin C
Wheat germ, whole grains Selenium, vitamin E


  • http://www.womenfirst.net/pdf/ADA/ADA_Antioxidants.pdf
  • http://acudoc.com/Antioxidants.PDF
  • http://www.waojournal.org/content/pdf/1939-4551-5-1-9.pdf
  • http://dairy.ifas.ufl.edu/rns/2007/McDowell.pdf
  • http://japi.org/october2004/R-794.pdf