Antioxidants 101

By Amy S. | Updated: Dec 21, 2018

Antioxidants 101
Did you know?

Antioxidants play a vital role in defying the aging process by keeping the skin looking fresh, healthy, and youthful.

Healthy cells in the body are under constant threat by highly reactive atoms known as free radicals. Free radicals cause damage when they interact with DNA or cell membranes in the body. This type of cellular destruction is understood to pave the way to skin damage, degenerative illnesses, heart disease, and strokes, though scientific research is ongoing. The body's defense system against these atoms are antioxidants, which is a general term for the nutrients that can neutralize free radicals and prevent cellular damage. Many nutrients have antioxidant properties, and can be easily sourced.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is found in citrus fruits. As a vitamin, it is one of the best-publicized for its various health properties; its significant antioxidant abilities contribute to that. Not only is this vitamin itself an antioxidant, but it can also help regenerate other antioxidants in the body. Consider incorporating lemons (Citrus limon) or lemon juice into your diet as a way of boosting your vitamin C intake.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient with a considerable antioxidant function, making it one of the most important nutrients for cell protection and healthy cell functioning. Nuts, seeds, and sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are fantastic sources of vitamin E. Try snacking on sunflower seeds or even olives (Olea europaea) to increase your consumption.


Beta-carotene is found in leafy greens, with perhaps the highest proportions being in spinach (Spinacia oleracea). The nutrient is converted into vitamin A in the body to achieve an antioxidant effect and also stimulate the production of protective white blood cells in the bloodstream.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are three different omega-3 fatty acids. They offer a range of health benefits, including antioxidant action. Omega-3 cannot be made inside the body, which makes it all the more important to incorporate it into your diet.  Great sources of omega fatty acids are coldwater fish and sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis).


Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that contain chemical structural elements responsible for antioxidant activities in the body. Quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid found in onion (Allium cepa). Also a flavonoid, genistein has antioxidant properties, and can be sourced in soy (Glycine max) products, such as tofu. Anthocyanins are another type of flavonoid with antioxidant properties, and they're found in foods that have vibrant red and purple colors, such as blackberry (Rubus fruticosus).


Plant-based selenium, an essential trace mineral in humans, is a significant antioxidant. Notably, it can neutralize free radical oxygen and free radical nitrogen. Selenium is also a component of other enzymes. The element is found in high proportions in brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa).

Although the direct links between antioxidants and prevention of serious illnesses remains inconclusive, the health benefits of antioxidants are undeniable. Ongoing scientific study about the medical potential of antioxidants is testament to the importance of boosting vitamin E, vitamin C, omega-3, beta-carotene, selenium, and healthy flavonoid intake wherever possible. Conveniently, these nutrients are easily and affordably worked into a healthy diet, because antioxidants are primarily found in familiar foods sources.


  • Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, Selenium: its role as antioxidant in human health, 2008
  • Harvard University, Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype
  • Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin C: Health Professional's Fact Sheet
  • Oregon State University, Antioxidant Activities of Flavonoids | The Possible Health Benefits of Anthocyanin Pigments and Polyphenolics
  • Rice University, Antioxidants and Free radicals
  • Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute, Phytochemicals, Antioxidants, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids