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Add foods rich in antioxidants to your springtime selections

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Help prevent disease by eating to boost immune system

Foods containing antioxidants can boost a person’s immunity and go a long way in preventing disease.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other compounds in food that protect cells in the body from damage by compounds called free radicals. Free radicals occur naturally when the body breaks down food or when it is exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

Antioxidants help repair cells in the body after they have been damaged. Foods rich in antioxidants help to block free radicals in the body, prevent or repair damage to cells, and may also lower a person’s risk of infection or cancer.

Foods containing vitamins A (and carotenoids), C, and E as well as selenium are good sources of antioxidants. Carotenoids are substances that give fruits and vegetables their yellow, orange, and red color. The American Dietetics Association suggests the following sources of antioxidants:

  • Vitamin A and carotenoids are found in carrots, squash, broccoli, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, and other brightly colored fruits.
  • Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, as well as green peppers, broccoli, and other green, leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin E can be found in nuts and seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and vegetable and liver oil.
  • Selenium can be found in fish and shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, and garlic.

Choosing foods that contain plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts can supply all the antioxidants your body needs and can provide protection from diseases.

For more information on healthy food choices, or recipes, contact the Trimble County Cooperative Extension office at (502) 255-7188.

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services. This week's source: Ingrid Adams, Extension Specialist for Food and Nutrition, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture.