What Are Antioxidants? - Definition, Foods & Benefits

Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

In this lesson, you will learn about antioxidants and why they are important to your health. You will also learn how to incorporate foods that are rich in antioxidants into your daily diet.


Your body is in a constant battle against infection, diseases and the formation of free radicals. However, there's a secret weapon that can help you fight against these things: antioxidants! Antioxidants are elements such as vitamins A, C and E that counteract the damage caused by free radicals and help protect your healthy cells. Free radicals are molecules that contain unpaired electrons, which make them highly reactive. In this form, they can cause damage by attacking healthy cells, and when these cells grow weakened, you become more vulnerable to disease.

Diagram of Free Radicals
Free Radicals

Free radicals may be produced from normal body functions such as breathing or physical activity, but they are mainly formed from your exposure to environmental hazards, such as pesticides, air pollution and cigarette smoke. Antioxidants work to disable the disease-causing free radicals, thus preventing the damage from occurring. Although your body naturally produces antioxidants, it doesn't produce enough to protect you from free radicals, so that is why it is important to include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet on a regular basis.


Colorful Vegetables
Colorful veggies

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts all contain an intricate mix of antioxidants, so eating a variety of these healthy foods will help ensure that you are getting plenty of these disease-fighting nutrients.

Here are some ways you can include antioxidant-rich foods into your diet:

  • Consume at least one fruit or vegetable with every meal.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables rich in colors like blue, purple, red, orange, yellow and green, because they often pack the most nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Smoothies are a great way to reap the health benefits of antioxidants. Try blending darkly colored berries such as blueberries or blackberries with citrus fruits, pineapples, apples or pears.
  • Antioxidants are also found in grain products. Oats, in particular, are an excellent source for incorporating antioxidants into your daily diet. Oatmeal and oat bran are two good food choices.
  • Eat your legumes. Red beans, kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans are all rich sources of antioxidants.
  • Cooking with herbs and spices like dried oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and ginger supply excellent doses of antioxidants.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 79 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account