You've probably read the headlines "Antioxidants Promote Health!" or "Antioxidants Prevent Aging." A quick trip through the supermarket shows that many food manufacturers are fortifying food with beta carotene (which forms vitamin A in the body), vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as selenium (a mineral).
Just what are antioxidants? They're a handful of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols present in a variety of foods that significantly slow or prevent the oxidative (damage from oxygen) process and so prevent or repair damage to your body cells. They may also improve immune function and perhaps lower risk for infection and cancer. What makes them unique? What foods supply them naturally? How might they work in your body? And how may antioxidants promote health and reduce chronic disease risk? Since antioxidants research is new, there's no conclusive evidence yet on their role in health. However, "Rounding Up Free Radicals " later in this chapter explains how antioxidants appear to work.
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