Carotenoids, excellent antioxidants, are available in abundance in red, orange, and deep yellow vegetables and fruit such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, peaches, and cantaloupe; dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli; as well as liver, egg yolks, milk, and butter. Studies show that men with the lowest levels of beta-carotene are at the highest risk for prostate cancer. (Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, is not—as is sometimes suggested—an antioxidant. However, beta-carotene—a vitamin A analog, or precursor, is converted into vitamin A by the body. Because it is stored in the liver, vitamin A can be toxic when taken in large quantities.) Lycopene, another carotenoid and one of the most powerful antioxidants, is believed to be effective against many diseases including cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, and cervix. Early in 1999, studies showed that tomatoes and their byproducts drastically increase blood levels of lycopene and reduce cellular damage from free radicals. Lutein, also a carotenoid, is believed to decrease the risk of macular degeneration.
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin, is not only essential for promoting general good health in the areas of aging, infertility, and athletic performance, research has also shown this antioxidant counteracts cell damage that leads to cancer, heart disease, and cataracts. It is also known to work together with other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, to help prevent some chronic illnesses. Available in vegetable oils, margarine, wheat germ, nuts, seeds, and peanut butter, supplementation of this important vitamin may be necessary to maintain adequate amounts within the body.
Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin and is not easily stored in the body. Therefore, daily intake is required. This "antioxidant workhorse" is perhaps the most famous, and research has shown its effectiveness in lowering the risk of cataracts and other eye problems, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Researchers have also found low levels of vitamin C in people suffering from asthma, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Excellent dietary sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits (especially oranges and grapefruit), kiwi fruit, strawberries, red peppers, broccoli, and potatoes.
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