How Antioxidants in Food Help Fight Cancer


Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances such as vitamins A, E and C that help protect cells in the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are damaged molecules with unpaired electrons which can multiply and set the stage for disease, especially heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants can bind to these unpaired electrons neutralizing their damaging effects. The heart muscle cells, nerve cells, and certain immune system cells are the most vulnerable to free radical damage.  Free radicals can form from the damaging effects of tobacco, pollution, processed foods, chemicals used to color and sweeten food and radiation.  A high intake of antioxidant nutrients appears to be especially protective against cancer. Antioxidants go after free radicals like Pac-men to gobble them up and neutralize their damaging effects to the body. They are found most abundantly in fruits and vegetables.



Food Sources

Vitamin A helps to protect cells against cancer and other diseases, and is critical for new cell growth. People receiving radiation treatment for prostate, colorectal and cervical cancers have benefited from taking oral vitamin A.


carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, squash, sweet potato, spinach, tomato products, orange/yellow vegetables


When vitamin E encounters a free radical, the vitamin itself becomes a weak friendly radical. Unlike bad free radicals, vitamin E radical can be recycled by vitamin C or Coenzyme Q10 to its full antioxidant state by receiving donated electrons from them. Antioxidants often work together to fight harmful free radicals.



wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, barley, and green leafy vegetables


Vitamin C is critical for healthy immune function and aids in bolstering the body’s ability to resist cancer. It regenerates vitamin E helping to protect DNA from free radical damage. It is critical for wound healing and post surgery, preserves health of the cardiovascular system, protects against cataracts, protects sperm, and is essential for the production of collagen.


bell pepper, broccoli, parsley, strawberries, oranges, papaya, pineapple, cantaloupe


Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that is chemically similar to vitamin E. It is found in high concentrations in the heart, liver, kidney, spleen and pancreas. CoQ10 is found in every cell of the body, providing the mitochondria (power center of each cell) its energy. It also has anti-aging effects, stimulates the immune system and helps to increase circulation.


trout, salmon, chicken, oranges, broccoli, spinach, peanuts, meat and sardines.


Selenium is not an antioxidant, rather it is a trace mineral that helps protect against many different forms of cancer (including prostate, lung and colon) by working in synergy with vitamin E. Selenium is not produced by the body and must be obtained through water, food and supplementation. In high doses selenium can become toxic so it’s important to take as directed.


Brazil nuts, tuna, cod, turkey, chicken, broccoli, egg yolks, onion, garlic, red grapes and wheat germ


Lycopene is one of the top ten anti-cancer carotenoids. Carotenoids are natural pigments found in food that give it color. Lycopene helps to lower the risk of all cancers, especially of the prostate. Cooked tomatoes contain the highest concentrations of lycopene and help the body to absorb it. Lycopene has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate, breast, pancreas and colorectal cancers. For best absorption consume with a little bit of oil.


red and pink fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, strawberries, apricots, red pepper and pink grapefruit.


Alpha Lipoic Acid is the most powerful and versatile antioxidant; it enhances the power of all the other antioxidants. It is the only antioxidant that is both fat and water soluble enabling it to reach all parts of the cell. It is not produced by the body so it must be supplemented. Alpha Lipoic Acid helps to protect against stroke, heart disease, and diabetes; enhances immune function and memory; protects against the effects of radiation.


broccoli, collard greens, chard, tomatoes, peas, Brussels sprouts and spinach



Consuming food sources of antioxidants appear to have a more powerful antioxidant effect than supplementing with vitamins. Fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that work synergistically (together) to keep the body in balance.  Eat 6-9 servings per day to increase antioxidant protection.


Nutritionist Darci Steiner provides nutrition counseling services in the Parker area. Visit us online at or



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