Antioxidants have been in the news for years because of their suspected role in disease prevention. Antioxidants are believed to protect cells from the free radical damage caused by unstable molecules in the body. Researchers suspect that free radical damage plays a role in the development of cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.

Studies have shown that animals consuming an antioxidant-rich diet have lessened free radical damage, but human studies have been inconsistent. Antioxidants are currently being studied for their ability to prevent and control such conditions and problems as Alzheimer's disease, forgetfulness, and cystic fibrosis.

Antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E. The easiest way to eat a diet rich in antioxidants is to consume plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. If you want to include more antioxidants in your diet, consider the following food sources:

Beta-carotene: Think orange: carrots, squash, mangos, and sweet potatoes are all rich in beta-carotene.

Lycopene: The best sources of lycopene are tomatoes and tomato-based foods such as soups and sauces, as well as watermelon and pink grapefruit.

Selenium: Common sources of selenium in the diet include meats and breads.

Vitamin A: Egg yolks, carrots, and sweet potatoes contain abundant vitamin A. 

Vitamin C: This nutrient is commonly found in fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and green peppers.

Vitamin E: To get more vitamin E in your diet, eat nuts, wheat germ, and oils such as corn and safflower.

Marlene Veloso