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The term antioxidant has been cropping up quite a bit recently. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells against harmful wastes (free radicals) produced by the body and triggered by external sources (smoke, chemicals, dust, etc.). These compounds are vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein). They all play roles in maintaining health and preventing certain diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and aging-related diseases.

Practical Advice

For adults, the best way to allow antioxidants to play their role is to eat 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day. (See the section on Canada’s Food Guide.) These foods are high in vitamin C and beta-carotene. Smokers should have one or two additional servings because they need more vitamin C than nonsmokers.

Cook fruit and vegetables in as little water as possible, since vitamin C dissolves in the cooking water. The vitamin-C content of food also decreases with storage, so eat fruit and vegetables fresh, preferably raw.

Use vegetable oil for cooking. It’s an excellent source of vitamin E. Choose sunflower-seed, safflower, canola, olive, or wheat-germ oil.

Opt for colorful vegetables, fruit, and juice. Green, red, and orange vegetables contain the most beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein.

Remember to vary your diet to get a combination of antioxidants.

Dietary Sources

Most people do not need antioxidant supplements. Indeed, you could get too much from taking a supplement, which could be harmful to your health instead of providing protection. Supplements can even cause a variety of health issues and, more rarely, poisoning. It’s therefore better to eat foods that contain antioxidants as well as other healthful components, such as dietary fiber.

Main dietary sources of antioxidants
Vitamin C Vitamin E Selenium Carotenoids
Citrus fruit and their juice Vegetable oil Brazil nuts Carrots
Apple juice Wheat germ Grain products Cantaloupe
Kiwis Nuts Wheat germ Sweet potatoes
Strawberries Peanut butter Wheat bran Pumpkin
Broccoli Sunflower seeds Oat bran Broccoli
Bell peppers, red, green, yellow Papaya Fish and shellfish Grapefruit, pink
Tomatoes Avocado Meat and poultry Tomatoes and tomato products
Potatoes Sweet potatoes Eggs Vegetables, dark-green leafy

High-Antioxidant, Energy Drink


  • Orange juice: 125 mL (1/2 cup)
  • Pineapple juice: 125 mL (1/2 cup)
  • Cranberry juice: 60 mL (1/4 cup)
  • Grape juice: 60 mL (1/4 cup)
  • Raspberries, fresh or frozen: 250 mL (1 cup)
  • Ice cubes: 125 mL (1/2 cup)

Process the ingredients in a blender.
Yields 4 to 6 servings.
This refreshing drink is high in antioxidants.

Nutritional information
Per serving, for 4 Per serving, for 6
Energy: 65 kcal (273 kJ) Energy: 44 kcal (182 kJ)
Vitamin A: 12.9 RE Vitamin A: 8.6 RE
Vitamin C: 30.7 mg Vitamin C: 20.5 mg

Source: Service de nutrition clinique du CHUL, March 2002.