Which Foods Prevent Free Radicals in Your Body?
Free radicals are dangerous molecules that can accumulate in your body and cause serious health problems, like cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, free radicals are formed with incomplete electron shells, which makes them more chemically reactive and damaging to your health. Toxic chemicals from substances like cigarette smoke and environmental radiation can also cause free radicals. Eating foods with antioxidants help prevent, neutralize and eradicate free radicals before they have a chance to cause DNA damage and long-term health problems.
Foods With Beta Carotene
Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that may help neutralize and prevent free radicals. Foods with beta carotene are easy to spot because this antioxidant gives them a vibrant orange color. The International Food Information Council Foundation reports that foods with beta carotene may also bolster your body's defenses so you are better able to prevent the formation of free radicals. Look for orange fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, apricots, cantaloupe and mangoes to get this antioxidant.
Foods With Vitamin C
One of the antioxidants that gets the most attention is vitamin C because it has such as a positive effect your body's natural defenses against illness. In addition to boosting your immune system, vitamin C also helps prevent the damage that free radicals cause by eliminating them before they become an irreversible problem. Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, pineapple, papaya, broccoli, brussels sprouts and spinach.
Foods With Vitamin E
Adding vitamin E to your daily diet is another way to help prevent the formation of free radicals, as well as help neutralize any that have already formed. Vitamin E is another nutrient that has antioxidant properties that help protect cells from free radicals and also aids in DNA repair, notes the International Food Information Council Foundation. Including vitamin E-rich foods like nuts, nut butters, vegetable oils, whole grains, wheat germ, brown rice, oatmeal and dark leafy green vegetables will help you get these benefits by increasing your intake of this important antioxidant.
Foods With Selenium
The National Cancer Institute notes that while selenium is not a antioxidant nutrient, it does play an important role in preventing free radicals and free radical damage. Selenium is present in foods that come from the ground, as well as in animal products that rely on selenium-rich feed. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, but eating oatmeal, brown rice, chicken, eggs, onions, wheat germ, whole grains and vegetables will also supply a healthy dose of this important free-radical preventing mineral.
- National Cancer Institute; Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet
- Cleveland Clinic: Antioxidant Food Table
- Martinez-Alfaro M, Alcaraz-Contreras Y, Carabez-Trejo A, Leo-Amador GE. Oxidative stress effects of thinner inhalation. Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2011;15(3):87-92. doi:10.4103/0019-5278.93195
- Neha K, Haider MR, Pathak A, Yar MS. Medicinal prospects of antioxidants: A review. Eur J Med Chem. 2019;178:687-704. doi:10.1016/j.ejmech.2019.06.010
- Silva SAME, Michniak-Kohn B, Leonardi GR. An overview about oxidation in clinical practice of skin aging. An Bras Dermatol. 2017;92(3):367-374. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20175481
- Phaniendra A, Jestadi DB, Periyasamy L. Free Radicals: Properties, Sources, Targets, and Their Implication in Various Diseases. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2015;30(1):11-26. doi:10.1007/s12291-014-0446-0
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Antioxidants. 2020.
- Joo J, Williamson SA, Vazquez AI, Fernandez JR, Bray MS. The inﬂuence of 15-week exercise training on dietary patterns among young adults. Int J Obes. 2019;43:1681-1690. doi:10.1038/s41366-018-0299-3
- Broadhead GK, Grigg JR, Chang AA, McCluskey P. Dietary modification and supplementation for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Nutr Rev. 2015;73(7):448-462. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv005
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.