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Foods to Eat to Protect the Body from Oxidative Stress

by Prity Kumari
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In the human body, free radicals produced by oxidation process disrupt cell membranes and other components, such as cellular proteins, lipids, and DNA. When oxygen is metabolized, unstable chemicals known as “free radicals” are produced. These molecules steal electrons from other molecules, damaging DNA and other cells.

Oxidative stress is generated by excess free radical generation in the body and a deficiency of antioxidants to battle this oxidation. The body can withstand some free radicals and need them for optimal function. However, over time, the damage caused by excess free radicals may become irreversible and contribute to certain diseases like heart and liver condition and certain cancers like oral, stomach, and bowel cancers. Free radicals are produced when the body turns glucose into energy, but this is not the only route. Stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol, UV radiation, pollution, and other factors can also promote oxidation in the body. [1]

Other than this, numerous environmental influences, including strenuous exercise, consuming foods with oils fried at high temperatures, and pesticides in foods, can promote oxidative damage. Free radicals have been recognized as a probable cause of cancer and apparent aging by damaging the cells and DNA. However, if one maintains a high consumption of antioxidants, these antioxidants can battle the generation of free radicals and maintain the body’s optimal level.

Following Are the Ailments Caused by Free Radicals

  • Degradation of the eye lens, a factor in vision loss
  • Inflammatory joint disease (arthritis)
  • Damage to the brain’s nerve cells contributes to diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
  • A speeding of the aging process or premature aging
  • Since free radicals induce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol to adhere to arterial walls, they raise the risk of coronary heart disease and malignancies caused by DNA damage.

Antioxidants and Reactive Oxygen Species

Certain foods contain antioxidants that can prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals by neutralizing them. Examples include antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E and minerals like copper, zinc, and selenium.

Plant phytochemicals are believed to have better antioxidant properties than vitamins or minerals. These antioxidants include phytochemicals, which are known as non-nutrient antioxidants like lycopene which is present in tomatoes, and anthocyanins present in cranberries. [2]

Antioxidant Rich Diet- That Help Fight Various Diseases

Diet becomes significant due to the widespread consumption of processed foods and sugar, which are counterproductive in the fight against free radicals and oxidative stress. By modifying the diet, one might preserve the body’s good balance, which is essential for living a healthy life. [1][3]

Also, a diet rich in antioxidants may lower the risk of multiple diseases (including cardiac disease and cancers). In addition, antioxidants eliminate free radicals from the body’s cells and prevent or minimize oxidative damage.

The protective impact of antioxidants is still being investigated globally. For example, men who consume an abundance of the antioxidant lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer than other men. However, lycopene has also been associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Lutein, which is found in spinach and maize, has been linked to a lower incidence of age-related eye lens degeneration and loss of vision in older people. Intake of lutein in diet may also improve memory and prevent cognitive decline, according to research.

According to studies, flavonoid-rich diets protect against certain diseases, including cancer and metabolic ailments. The most prevalent sources of flavonoids include apples, grapes, citrus fruits, berries, tea, onions, olive oil, and red wine. [1][3]

Which Foods are Rich in Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are present in a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and even spices. Down below is a list of foods that one can consume before and after workout to counteract oxidative stress and reduce the number of free radicals in the body.

Antioxidant-rich plant foods are plentiful. They are particularly rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, whole grains, and some meats, poultry, and fish.

Good sources of specific antioxidants include:

  • Zoochemical which is present in red meat, offal, and fish Zinc which is rich in seafood, nuts, lean meat, and milk
  • Vitamin E which is present in vegetable oils, whole grains, avocados, nuts, seeds
  • Vitamin C which is present in oranges, kiwifruit, mangoes, capsicum, strawberries, broccoli, spinach,
  • Vitamin A which is present in sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, and egg yolks
  • Polyphenols which are present in herbs
  • Lycopene present in tomatoes, apricots, and watermelon
  • Lutein which is present in green, leafy vegetables like spinach, and even corn
  • Lignans present in the sesame seeds, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Isoflavonoids present in soybeans, lentils, peas, tofu, and milk
  • Indoles which are present in broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • Flavonoids which are present in tea, green tea, onion, citrus fruits, and red wine
  • Cryptoxanthins which are present in pumpkin and red capsicum,
  • Copper which is present in nuts, lean meat, and milk
  • Catechins which are found in red wine and tea
  • Beta-carotene, which is rich in pumpkin, spinach, parsley, mangoes, apricots, and carrots
  • Anthocyanins present in the berries and grapes
  • Allium sulfur compounds which are present in garlic and onion.[1] [2]

Recommendations for Antioxidants in The Diet

To have a healthy and well-balanced diet, it is recommended that one must consume a range of foods from the 5 main food groups daily to fight side effects caused by free radicals in the body:

  • Veggies and legumes or beans
  • Fruits and cereals with entire grains
  • Lean meat, poultry, or substitutes like fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Dairy and dairy substitutes – predominantly low-fat (decreased fat milk is not advised for small children under 2 years)
  • To achieve one nutritional needs, one should consume at least one serving of fruits and vegetables every day. Depending on gender, age, and life stage are generally equivalent to a medium-sized piece of fruit or a half-cup of cooked vegetables. [1] [3]


  • It is important to note that the body requires both free radicals and antioxidants. Unfortunately, too much or too little of either might cause health concerns.
  • Among the lifestyle and dietary modifications that may minimize oxidative stress in the body are:
  • Consuming a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Reducing consumption of processed foods, especially those heavy in sugars and fats
  • Regular exercise aids with quitting smoking
  • Avoiding or minimizing exposure to pollutants and harsh chemicals to reduce stress
  • Maintaining a healthy weight may aid in the reduction of oxidative stress. Extra fat cells generate inflammatory chemicals that promote immune cell inflammatory activity and free radical generation. [3]


Oxidative stress is caused by an excess of free radicals in the body’s cells. During regular metabolic processes, the body produces free radicals. Damage to DNA, proteins, and cells caused by oxidative stress can contribute to aging. It may also cause variety of health disorders, such as diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Antioxidants are produced by the body to combat these free radicals. The food of an individual is also a significant source of antioxidants. Changes to one’s diet and lifestyle may help lower oxidative stress. These may include maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and consuming a balanced, nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables. [3]


  1. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/antioxidants
  2. https://blog.dnafit.com/foods-to-preload-with-to-combat-oxidative-stress
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324863#prevention


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