The physiological process of oxidation in animal tissue is quite normal and antioxidants are capable of counteracting the damaging effects. Antioxidants come in several forms having the ability to neutralise harmful molecules in our cells. These harmful molecules are known as free radicals.

It is impossible for us to avoid damage by free radicals as they arise from sources both inside and outside our bodies. The human body naturally produces free radicals and the antioxidants to counteract their damaging effects, but the body just can’t keep up with antioxidant production and in most cases, free radicals far outnumber the naturally occurring antioxidants. Therefore in order to maintain the balance, a diet rich in antioxidants is necessary to obtain the maximum benefits of antioxidants. Increasing your antioxidant intake is essential for optimum health, especially in today’s polluted world.

Antioxidants are believed to play a role in preventing the development of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts. In one recent study, the addition of a polyphenol-rich blueberry gel to the diet of oral cancer patients prevented recurrence of the cancer. Another experiment demonstrated that increased levels of selenium in the diets of a group of HIV-positive patients significantly delayed progression of the disease.

The three major antioxidant vitamins are vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene and you will find them in colourful fruits and vegetables, especially those that are blue, red, orange, and yellow.

Vitamin C examples are berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, tomatoes, and red, green, or yellow peppers.

Vitamin E examples are broccoli (boiled), avocado, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach (boiled), and sunflower seeds.

Beta-carotene and other carotenoids examples are apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Other antioxidants that can help keep you healthy include zinc and selenium.

Examples of food containing zinc are oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, some fortified cereals if zinc has been added and dairy products.

Those containing selenium are Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry, fortified breads and other grain products.

If you eat these foods raw or lightly steamed you will get the maximum benefit from the antioxidants and a diet rich in antioxidants is the most effective way to reduce the risks of many health problems associated with ageing.

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