Answered by on Monday, November 9, 2009
Antioxidants are chemical compounds that occur naturally in highly pigmented fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, yellow squash, red grapes, and blueberries. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, a type of oxygen molecule that can damage cells. "Oxidation," as this process is called, is what causes a cut apple to turn brown and iron to rust. In humans, it is linked to some types of cancer and heart disease, as well as the gradual loss of organ function that occurs with aging. "The important thing to remember about antioxidants is that they work best as a team," says Melanie Polk, director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research. "Supplements tend to concentrate on only one or two nutrients, so the best way to be sure you're getting enough antioxidants into your diet is by eating a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in generous amounts."