1. A quick fix for good health?
  2. How do antioxidants work?
  3. Where do we get antioxidants from in food?
  4. Supplements: a waste of time?
  5. Eat a balanced diet
  6. Where next?

1. A quick fix for good health?

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other chemicals that help protect our cells from the damaging substances produced during normal cell metabolism.

Eating a diet rich in some antioxidants has been shown to protect against the development of coronary heart disease, strokes, some cancers and age-related diseases. So we should consume as many as we can, right – including supplements?

Probably not. While some antioxidants may protect healthy cells from DNA damage, we still don't fully understand all of their effects on our health. While it’s a good idea to eat a wide variety of antioxidant-rich food, expert opinion is that for most people it’s not beneficial to top-up with antioxidant supplements.

2. How do antioxidants work?

Oxidation is a normal chemical process in our bodies that produces unstable molecules called free radicals.

In small quantities, free radicals are useful to us, as they play an important role in normal cell processes.

But in large quantities they can cause cell damage and impair cell functioning, a process known as "oxidative stress".

We use antioxidants such as Vitamin C and beta-carotene to prevent oxidative stress and protect our body cells from injury.

Antioxidants do this by scavenging electrons from the free radicals, effectively neutralising them.

3. Where do we get antioxidants from in food?

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Research over the past 10 years has shown that eating antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, pulses and grains has a beneficial effect on our general health. But it is important to note that the antioxidant content of food and drink varies widely and does not equate to its potential impact on the body.

4. Supplements: a waste of time?

The majority of clinical trials to date have found no evidence that taking individual or combinations of antioxidants can offer healthy people protection against disease.

According to Professor Saunders, head of diabetes and nutritional sciences division at King's College London, taking antioxidant supplements may even be harmful to our health, particularly for smokers.

And the Cochrane Collaboration, an international group that reviews the evidence for health care interventions, also supports the view that antioxidant supplements can do more harm than good.

In 2012 it conducted a review of 78 clinical trials on antioxidant supplements, and found no evidence to support taking them for primary or secondary prevention against disease.

A study carried out in the 90s with heavy smoking Finnish men, found those taking high doses of beta-carotene had an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Research on antioxidant supplements of vitamin E has also been linked with one kind of stroke and possibly prostate cancer.

Luckily nature has provided us with a balanced package of antioxidants and there is certainly no evidence to suggest that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can be bad for you.

5. Eat a balanced diet

Eat a rainbow

Catherine Collins, principle dietician at St George's Hospital NHS Trust, recommends eating more plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, pulses and grains, which are all rich in dietary antioxidants and also a good source of fibre.

So how much is enough?

According to the British Dietetic Association, eating 400g of fruit and vegetables a day can help lower the risk of health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers.

Dietician Felicity Lyons, spokesperson for the British Dietetics Association, says that each antioxidant has its own particular role to play in the body, so over-consuming one type will not help overall.

Try cutting down on processed food and cooking more at home with these healthy recipes from BBC Food.