Just like rust on a car, oxidation can cause damage to cells and may contribute to breakdown of the body’s immune system resulting in its inability to protect the human body from the unstable molecules known as free radicals. Antioxidants help prevent oxidation, may help increase the immune function and possibly decrease risk of infection and cancer. Antioxidants exist in vitamins, minerals and other compounds in food.
A few of the better known antioxidants include carotenoids – the substance that gives fruits and vegetables their deep rich colors. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene (found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, apricots etc.), vitamins C, E and A, and other substances such as Lutein (naturally found in green leafy vegetables and in marigold), polyphenols and proanthocyanins (found in grapes and grape seed extracts, and various berry extracts).