What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances that prevent oxidation. We have in our bodies, substances categorized as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS), also known as free radicals. These can damage our DNA in addition to causing the oxidation of fats and proteins within our cells. ​1,2​

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Normally, the antioxidant system in our bodies eliminates these free radicals, helping to maintain the balance of oxidation and anti-oxidation. However, our environments, including the air we breathe, the food and drink we consume among other elements, expose us to the production of more free radicals than our in-built systems can effectively handle.

External sources of free radicals include pollution, alcohol, tobacco smoke, heavy metals, transition metals, industrial solvents, pesticides, certain drugs like halothane, paracetamol, and radiation.

Free radicals have been reportedly involved in several diseases and classes of disease such as diabetes mellitus, neuro-degenerative disorders (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Multiple sclerosis), cardiovascular diseases (atherosclerosis and hypertension), respiratory diseases (asthma), cataract development, rheumatoid arthritis and various cancers such as colorectal, prostate, breast, lung and bladder.

This is why we are advised to consume food and drink that contain additional antioxidants. Sources of antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, cereals, mushrooms, beverages, flowers, spices and traditional medicinal herbs from various healing systems. As per the National Centre for Complimentary and Integrative Health, examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.


  1. 1.
    Phaniendra A, Jestadi D, Periyasamy L. Free radicals: properties, sources, targets, and their implication in various diseases. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2015;30(1):11-26. doi:10.1007/s12291-014-0446-0
  2. 2.
    Xu D, Li Y, Meng X, et al. Natural Antioxidants in Foods and Medicinal Plants: Extraction, Assessment and Resources. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(1). doi:10.3390/ijms18010096

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