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Wellness 09/03/2021

Antioxidants in the diet

Antioxidants are all the rage! Consumed in natural form, they contribute to a healthy lifestyle and are a first choice asset to counteract the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. The more antioxidants we eat, the better our bodies are able to prevent certain diseases. But where exactly are antioxidants found? And which foods and nutrients contain them in particular?

Antioxidants and free radicals

As we saw in our previous article, antioxidants are molecules that slow down the oxidation process of our cells. Oxidative stress occurs when there is a surplus of free radicals in the body. Antioxidants are precisely there to neutralize them, allowing the body to protect itself and prevent certain diseases.

The different classes of antioxidants

We find different types of antioxidants in food:


  • Vitamin C: inhibits free radicals inside the cell and helps the regeneration of vitamin E in the cell membrane.
  • Vitamin E: protects cell membranes from free radical damage and helps regenerate them.
  • Vitamin A, retinoids and provitamins A: these molecules are effective against free radical damage to cell membranes.


Trace elements and minerals

All are essential for certain antioxidant enzymes and contribute to the body's defences.
  • Zinc

  • Selenium

  • Copper

  • Manganese

  • Magnesium




In particular, they help protect the skin and eyes from free radical attacks and prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • Lycopene

  • Beta-carotene

  • Lutein

  • Astaxanthin

  • Zeaxanthin

  • Canthaxanthin



They are powerful antioxidants that scavenge free radicals. Their antioxidant action is exerted by inhibiting free radical-generating enzymes and by blocking the oxidative activity of iron and copper during chemical reactions in the body.
  • Phenolic acids

  • Flavonoids

  • Catechins

  • Anthocyanins

  • Tannins

  • Resveratrol



What diet should I use to fill up on antioxidants?

Our diet provides natural antioxidants that help the body to slow down this oxidative stress. To support our internal defense system, it is therefore important to vary our diet in order to provide our body with a maximum of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are mainly found in coloured fruits and vegetables. They all contain vitamins and minerals: mainly beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and zinc. They are also rich in polyphenols, compounds that stimulate - inside our cells - the genes involved in the fight against oxidation.

But some plants are better endowed than others. Foods with a high concentration of antioxidants include parsley, red beets, kale, broccoli, artichokes, tomatoes, red fruits (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, black cherries, cranberries, goji berries), pomegranates, prunes, grapes, red apples, ginger, almonds, as well as green tea and garlic. You should also try fish, seafood, and spices and herbs such as turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, peppers, cloves, thyme, parsley, rosemary and sorrel.

Generally speaking, it is wise to add good sources of vitamin C (kiwi, orange, lemon) and vitamin E (avocado, rapeseed oil) to your diet. Favour raw vegetables, soups with green vegetables and carrots, desserts and drinks made from fresh fruit, unrefined organic vegetable oils and wholegrain cereals. For fruits and vegetables, it is advisable to eat them with the skin, because it is there that the concentration of antioxidants is the highest. Finally, prefer to cook them steamed, in foil, covered or lightly grilled in a frying pan, in order to preserve a maximum of vitamins and other antioxidant nutrients.

Antioxidant food supplements: valuable allies

Although many antioxidants are found in food, it does not always provide all the nutrients we need. Indeed, between pollution and soil depletion, food is not always rich enough to cover all the needs of our body. This is why it is interesting to supplement with a nutritional supplement.

There are many antioxidant food supplements on the market. They generally contain vitamin E and C, zinc, selenium, beta-carotene, lycopene, glutathione, resveratrol from grapes or Coenzyme Q10. But there are also antioxidants extracted from plants or fruits known to be particularly antioxidant. 

Antioxidant molecules and foods

Antioxidant molecules include vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, enzymes, and many others:

  • Anthocyanins : eggplant, grapes, berries
  • Beta-carotene : squash, sweet potato, mango, apricot, carrot, spinach, parsley, tomato sauce
  • Carotenoids : sweet potato, carrot, spinach, pepper, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, peas, green beans, corn, egg yolk, shrimp, salmon
  • Catechins : green tea, red wine, chocolate
  • Sulphur compounds : leek, garlic, onion, chives
  • Cryptoxanthins : red pepper, pumpkin, mango
  • Copper : seafood, lean meat, nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.), legumes
  • Flavonoids : green tea, red wine, citrus, apple, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, onion, ginseng
  • Indoles : crucifers, including broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
  • Lignans : sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables
  • Lutein : corn, green leafy vegetables (spinach, arugula, watercress)
  • Lycopene : tomato, pink grapefruit, melon
  • Manganese : seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
  • Polyphenols : fruits (especially pomegranate), vegetables, green tea, thyme, oregano, soybean germ
  • Selenium : fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, nuts
  • Vitamin A : butter, eggs, liver
  • Vitamin C : lemon, orange, berries, kiwi, mango, papaya, guava, broccoli, spinach, pepper, chilli
  • Vitamin E : vegetable oils (especially cold-pressed rapeseed oil), oil seeds (almonds, sunflower, walnuts, hazelnuts), avocado, sardines, mackerel, herring, wheat germ, spinach, asparagus, watercress, broccoli
  • Zinc : red meat, calf's liver, seafood, legumes (lentils, beans, peas), sesame seeds, whole grains
  • Zoochemicals: red meat, offal, fish