Antioxidants are compounds (including vitamins like vitamins C and E; minerals like selenium; and phytochemicals like beta-carotene) that help quench the activities of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage your body's cells. Free radicals are produced as normal by-products of metabolism and by external factors, such as your lifestyle choices. A poor diet (too much processed food, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol) excessive exercise, poor sleep, emotional stress, and exposure to environmental toxins can all drive the production of free radicals in the body. When your body produces more free radicals than it can handle, oxidative stress occurs, setting the stage for diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even brain autoimmune disorders. Just as a car left outside to weather the elements will rust, so will your body when left unprotected. Eating antioxidant-rich superfoods can help combat the cell-damaging effects of free radicals and fight inflammation. And as researchers are still learning, antioxidants also appear to have beneficial activities (outside of their ability to scavenge free radicals) that may contribute to their potential health benefits.