Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent cell damage by oxidants. Our body is exposed to oxygen every day, an essential process, but this exposure also causes oxidation. Oxidation harms body chemicals, turning them into what are called free radicals. Exposure to the sun, cigarette smoke, pollution and alcohol consumption can accelerate oxidation.

Oxidation can over time damage important body chemicals, even your DNA. Some cells can heal but some are left permanently damaged. These free radicals, scientists say, can affect the aging process and contribute to diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Antioxidants not only stabilize the damage caused by free radicals but can also reverse the damage. Here are nine facts about antioxidants.

  1. “Antioxidants” became a buzzword in the '90s when scientists proposed that free-radical damage was present in the early stages of atherosclerosis and the damage might play a role in the development of other chronic diseases, including loss of vision.
  2. Taking too many antioxidant supplements can inhibit your body’s ability to turn its own antioxidant defense system on.
  3. Naturally occurring antioxidants are available aplenty in fruits and vegetables. But that’s not all. Antioxidants are also found in coffee, tea, wine (resveratrol), and chocolate (flavanols).
  4. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene are also popular antioxidants.
  5. A diet low on fat can affect absorption of beta carotene and vitamin E.
  6. Eating unpeeled apples, potatoes and grapes is ideal as the skin is packed with antioxidants.
  7. A study showed that in people with intermediate age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a diet rich in antioxidants beta carotene, vitamins C and E and zinc can reduce the chances of developing advanced AMD.
  8. Taking a lot of antioxidant supplement has been linked to an increased risk of developing skin cancer in women.
  9. Consuming too many vitamin E supplements is linked to increased risk of heart failure.