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Antioxidants are essential to your body's defense against free radicals. There is research now that shows antioxidant vitamins C, E and beta carotene (the plant form of vitamin A) can help lower the risk of heart disease and cancer by protecting you from free radicals.

There are free radicals formed in our bodies all the time. Free radicals are unstable chemicals. Free radicals can attack the cells of your body, affecting the cardiovascular, neurological, and immune systems. They also attack and destroy mitochondria — the cells that produce energy in the body. A small amount of free radicals are not a problem. Our body produces its own batch of free radical eliminators called “antioxidants” to seek out and destroy free radicals. We also get small amounts of antioxidants from the foods we eat, such as certain fresh fruits and vegetables.

Problems occur when free radicals become too numerous. When our body fails to produce enough antioxidants quickly enough — or additional free radicals are created by high stress, poor diet, lack of sleep or environmental toxins — healthy cells and tissues get damaged. Antioxidants inactivate or destroy the free radicals which damage cells, blood vessel walls and start heart or other diseases.   Antioxidant vitamins C, E and beta carotene make free radicals harmless. Dark green, dark yellow fruits and vegetables are good sources of these vitamins. There are also other non-nutritient substances called indoles, phenols, flavones and isothiocyantes which are found in the same foods which are also protective against cancer.

The list below is arranged in order beginning with the item containing the highest amount of the vitamin.

VITAMIN C - papaya, broccoli, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, strawberries, brussel sprouts, snow peas, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, asparagus, kiwi, green peppers, fresh currants.

VITAMIN E - corn and  wheat germ, sunflower seeds, assorted nuts, olive oil, whole grain cereals, polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as sunflower or corn oil.

BETA CAROTENE - Vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, watercress, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, greens of beets, turnips, dandelion, kale. 
Fruits: mangoes, melons (cantaloupe), apricots, papayas, peaches, nectarines.


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