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Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage by free radicals (highly reactive molecules). Free radicals are formed naturally in the body and are increased by stress, pollution and illness. They accelerate the aging process and have been implicated as major players in many diseases including cancer. The more free radicals formed, the more antioxidants needed to neutralise them.
Fruits, vegetables and grains are rich sources of dietary antioxidants. Examples of popular antioxidant supplements include beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamins A, C and E. Sports enthusiasts often need more antioxidants to combat exercise-induced oxidative damage. Many praise their anti-inflammatory effects and find that they aid recovery.