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How Antioxidants Work

Antioxidants minimize damage to your cells from free radicals.

Getting the Right Mix of Antioxidants

The body needs a mix of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene, to neutralize this free radical assault.

"We can't rely on a few blockbuster foods to do the job," says Blumberg. "You can't eat nine servings of broccoli a day and expect it to do it all. We need to eat many different foods. Each type works in different tissues of the body, in different parts of cells. Some are good at quenching some free radicals, some are better at quenching others. When you have appropriate amounts of different antioxidants, you're doing what you can to protect yourself."

Multivitamins and vitamin supplements can provide the body with an antioxidant boost. Yet getting too much of some supplements, like vitamin E, can be harmful. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts contain complex mixes of antioxidants, and therein lies the benefit of eating a variety of healthy foods, says Blumberg.

Researchers continue delving into the mysteries of fruits and vegetables, identifying the complex antioxidants they contain. Quercetin, luteolin, hesperetin, catetchin, even (-)-epigallocetechin are some of the stars they have found -- the blockbuster flavonoids in our foods.

"Sure, you can live your whole life without getting epicatechin 3-gallate, a flavonoid found in huge quantities in green tea," says Blumberg. "But if having it in your diet promotes better health, why not try it?"

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Reviewed on April 22, 2006

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