These natural substances include vitamins C and E and minerals selenium and zinc. They appear to work by deactivating free radicals, the unstable oxygen molecules associated with cancer, heart disease and the effects of aging.
It's believed that antioxidants in food 'zap' these pesky molecules in our bodies before they have a chance to harm healthy cells and tissue.
Naturally occurring substances called phytochemicals have also been identified as antioxidants. They're found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. The orange in carrots and sweet potatoes is created by beta carotene, the red in tomatoes and watermelon by lycopene, the yellow in corn by lutein and the blue in blueberries and plums by flavonoids. More that 4,000 different flavonoids have been identified so far!
Make the most of antioxidants by eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Skip the supplements - studies show that the many components in food somehow work together to enhance antioxidant effects.