Some people think that adding foods rich in antioxidants to your diet can help reverse or delay the aging process. Antioxidants are substances found in many foods that may afford protection to the cells throughout your body against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals can attack and damage healthy cells.

Over time, many health care experts say that such damage can lead to serious health problems.

Researchers think that free radicals contribute to the development of cancer and heart disease, as well as a decline in the immune system.

Antioxidants in the diet are important because your body produces free radicals when it breaks down food. However, exposure to things such as air pollution, tobacco smoke and radiation also creates free radicals.

Foods that are rich in antioxidants include vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and some fish, meats and poultry. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and selenium.

There are many ways to obtain the benefit of antioxidants in your diet in order to protect and repair the cells within your body. One of the best things about eating foods rich in antioxidants is that doing so automatically introduces a lot of variety to your diet. Foods rich in antioxidants are often colorful. In addition, many foods contain more than one antioxidant.

For example, eat bright colored vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, collards, kale, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, and fruits such as apricots, cantaloupe and peaches to get vitamin A. Most people know that citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes are rich in vitamin C, but strawberries, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, green peppers and tomatoes also supply it.

Add green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil, whole grains, nuts and seeds to your diet to get vitamin E. For selenium, add plenty of grains, eggs, chicken, red meat, fish and shellfish to your diet, and add garlic to the dishes you make.

Put some beta-carotene in your diet by consuming vegetables such as asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, collard greens, corn, green peppers, kale, turnips, squash, spinach, sweet potato and tomatoes. Add fruits such as apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, tangerines and watermelon to satisfy your sweet tooth while getting the benefits of beta-carotene in your diet.

Lutein comes in collard greens, kale and spinach, while apricots, blood oranges, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit, tomatoes and watermelon are rich in lycopene.