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What are antioxidants and phytochemicals?

And why do we need them?

Researchers say that it’s not just the vitamins and minerals alone that help protect against cancer. It’s also the special forms of vitamins and minerals in foods or their combination with other substances in foods.

It’s best to choose whole foods, rather than take vitamin and mineral supplements.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are chemical substances found naturally in many foods. Certain vitamins and minerals found in many foods, especially vegetables and fruit, act as antioxidants. Some types of antioxidants are:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • selenium
What are phytochemicals?

Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in plants. All vegetables and fruit and many grains contain phytochemicals. They are what give vegetables and fruit their vibrant colours. Some phytochemicals act like antioxidants. Some types of phytochemicals are:

  • carotenoids (beta carotene, lycopene and lutein)
  • flavonoids
  • indoles
  • isoflavones
Why do we need them?

Antioxidants protect the body’s cells and tissues from free radicals, which are made when our bodies use oxygen. Free radicals can damage cells, which may lead to cancer. Antioxidants are thought to help protect cells by removing free radicals before they cause damage.

Phytochemicals may help reduce the risk of cancer, but there is still a lot to learn about the activity of phytochemicals and their protective effects.

The best way to benefit from different antioxidants and phytochemicals is to eat a variety of vegetables, fruit and grains each day.


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