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Antioxidants help to protect the body from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are produced in the body because of exercise, pollution, poor diet and smoking. They can attack the blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke or cancer. The major antioxidants include vitamins A (beta carotene) C, E, selenium, manganese, zinc, lycopene, lutein and flavonoids and can be found in the following:

Food or drink
Vitamin A/ ?-carotene Liver, dairy products, eggs, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, apricots, cantaloupe melon
Vitamin C Green leafy vegetables, potatoes, cantaloupe melon, citrus fruits, strawberries, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, mangoes, tomatoes, peppers, white bread
Vitamin E Vegetable oil, liver, green leafy vegetables, dairy foods, wholegrains, nuts and seeds
Selenium Seafood, meat, grains, vegetables
Manganese Nuts, dried fruit, cereals, grains, tea
Zinc Meat, seafood, fish, poultry, green vegetables
Lycopene and lutein Tomatoes
Flavonoids Red wine, grapes, tea, onions

Some antioxidant vitamins (particularly Vitamin C), are destroyed by heat, light and air and leach into cooking water. To look after the vitamins and minerals in your food, try using alternative cooking methods such as steaming, quick stir frying or microwave instead of boiling

Keep a store of frozen fruits and vegetables for when you can't find time to buy fresh. They are just as good as fresh in many ways as they are picked and frozen on the same day and most of the nutritional value is maintained. Tinned fruit and vegetables generally have a lower vitamin and mineral content as a result of processing. Check the salt content of tinned foods and choose those that are vacuum-packed with no salt added

Eat raw fruit and vegetables as snacks or in salads. Fruit makes a great, high carbohydrate, low fat, nutrient dense snack. Vegetables can add bulk to meals which is likely to increase feelings of fullness and help reduce snacking on high fat food between meals

Scientific studies into the effects of vitamins and minerals on the risk of heart disease and cancer continue. Most studies have shown a decreased risk of these diseases in people who have higher intakes of fruit and vegetables

Eat 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day. A portion is equal to: one apple/banana/nectarine/peach/pear, two smaller fruits, e.g. kiwi/plums, a large slice of melon/pineapple, a small glass of fruit juice, 2-3 tablespoons of cooked vegetables or a dessert bowl of salad

It is currently not known how much of particular vitamins and minerals are needed to reduce the risk of disease, so mega-dosing on supplements of vitamins and minerals is not justified. Following a healthy diet with a variety of foods is the safest way to ensure a good balance

Supplements can lead to rebound deficiency (eg vitamin C), vitamin A is toxic in large doses and taking too much of a particular vitamin or mineral can upset the balance of other vitamins and minerals within the body

** This fact sheet provides you with basic information about healthy eating. It is not a substitute for medical or dietetic advice and you should contact your GP for further information

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