What are antioxidants?
All the vivid colors you can see in fruits and vegetables are derived from variety of chemicals called antioxidants. Almost exclusively are they found in plants. Antioxidants found in animal-based foods are present only because animals eat plants containing antioxidants and store small amounts in their tissues. We need to rely on plants in this matter!
What is cool about antioxidants is that you can actually see them present in the plants and veggies, unlike proteins, fibers or carbohydrates. They are visible in hundreds of different colors. They vary from yellow color of beta-carotene(squash), to red color of lycopene(tomatoes), to orange color of crytoxanthins(orange). Other antioxidants are colorless like ascorbic acid(Vitamin C) or Vitamin E. They are countless in numbers, but I've picked some odd ones out to give them credit for sounding so weird: zeaxanthin, ubiquinone, proanthocyanidins and resveratrol - aren't those tongue twisters!
Read also: List of food high in Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect plants against free radicals, which is relevant for humans, animals in general. We produce low levels of free radicals throughout our lifetime. Simply being exposed to Sun's rays, to certain industrial pollutants and improperly balanced nutrient intakes creates a background of unwanted free radical damage. The electrons that are changing the sunlight in plants into chemical energy must be managed very carefully and antioxidants are very up to this job!
Unfortunately, we are not plants hence why we can't produce our own antioxidants, but fortunately antioxidants in plants work in our bodies the same way they work in plants. It is not a coincidence that we are attracted to the vivid colors of plants! Plants are vital for your health!
To supplement or not? Is it really a question?
It is crucial to note down that supplements like Vitamin C, E, A and other, which are very popular today("a pill for every ill"), are shown to have very little or no effect on health whatsoever. High-doses of antioxidant supplements have even been recorded to have harmful and disease promoting effect on the body.
Nutrients in plants are not made to consume in isolation. The antioxidants in plants and vegetables work together with all the other nutrients to promote health. If you are taking just the pill, then you are missing all the fiber, vitamins, minerals which would react with each other in controlled manner as they are supposed to do. Supplement industry is big and they don't care about your well-being, they care about your euros and dollars. If you want vitamin C or beta-carotene, don't reach for the pill bottle - reach for the fruit or leafy green vegetables.