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You’ve no doubt heard that antioxidants are important for your health. But what are antioxidants? What can they do for you? And should you be getting more of them in your diet?

Antioxidants are substances that protect and repair the cells of your body from damage by unstable particles called “free radicals." Many experts believe this damage plays a part in a number of chronic diseases. They may also help fight aging of the skin, including wrinkles and age spots.

There are many different antioxidants, but for starters, check out these healthy helpers and some of the food sources that you should strive to include in your daily diet. To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed; don’t overcook or boil.

  • Beta carotene. This antioxidant is commonly found in leafy green and yellow/orange vegetables like broccoli and carrots, as well as pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
  • Lycopene. Among the best sources of the antioxidant lycopene are tomatoes and processed tomato products, like ketchup and spaghetti sauce. Other good sources are watermelon and guava.
  • Vitamins A, C, and E. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables -- especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. Liver and dairy products are also good sources of vitamin A. Get your C’s with citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and lemons, as well as bell peppers. Good sources of E are olive oil, fortified cereals, and mixed nuts.

Some other well-known antioxidants to check out are zinc, selenium, lutein, and quercetin, which can be found in foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to teas and red wine.

Should you take antioxidant supplements to help keep you healthy? It's best to get the nutrients you need, including antioxidants, through food. If you don't eat a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods, supplements may help fill in the gaps, although there are concerns about the safety of antioxidant supplements. And always remember to let your doctor know about any supplements you take.