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Antioxidants are specific vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. They help protect your body from certain health problems. Antioxidants help protect against cancer, artery and heart disease, arthritis, and cataracts. Beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and selenium are the antioxidants that have been studied the most.

What food source is the nutrient found in? 
Foods high in beta-carotene include most red, dark orange, and deep yellow fruits. Beta-carotene is found in:
  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • pumpkins
  • apricots
  • rockmelon
  • peaches
  • broccoli
  • mango
  • pawpaw
  • passionfruit
  • plums
Foods high in vitamin C include:
  • citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, and mandarins
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • capsicum
  • kiwi fruit
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes with skin
  • custard apple
  • pawpaw
  • cabbage
Foods high in vitamin E include:
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • almonds
  • wheat germ
  • vegetable oils
  • whole grains
Foods high in selenium include:
  • seafood
  • organ meats
  • lean meats
  • poultry
  • low-fat dairy products
  • whole grains
How does the nutrient affect the body? 
Oxidation is why a cut-up apple turns brown or why vegetable oil turns rancid. Oxidation is caused by free radicals. Just as in the apple and oil, oxidation in the body can lead to the onset of problems. The simple act of breathing creates free radicals in your body. When your body breaks down protein that you eat, free radicals are created in your body. Cigarette smoke, air pollution, and UV radiation expose the body to free radicals.

Normally the body will break down free radicals. If free radicals form faster than the body can break them down, damage to cells and tissues can occur.

Antioxidants help counteract the damage caused by free radicals. They help the body prevent the formation of free radicals and/or reduce their effect. Then the free radicals cannot damage cells and tissues nor cause health problems.

Researchers are now studying whether taking additional amounts of antioxidant supplements can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They continue to study how much would be needed, how long they would need to be taken, and what would be the long-term side effects. The results will not be known for several more years.

In the meantime, experts recommend a balanced diet with at least 2 servings per day of fresh fruits and 5 servings of vegetables, and plenty of whole grains. This provides good sources of the nutrients that help promote health and fight disease. These nutrients include antioxidants, dietary fibre, and other vitamins and minerals. By following the Australian Guide To Healthy Eating, you will eat foods rich in anti-oxidants.

Author: Kelly Streit, MS, RD, LD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 30/11/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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