Intake of individual antioxidants has been related to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the overall diet may contain many antioxidants with additive or synergistic effects. Therefore, we aimed to determine associations between total dietary antioxidant capacity and risk of type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and insulin resistance. We estimated the dietary antioxidant capacity for 5796 participants of the Rotterdam Study using a ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) score. Of these participants, 4957 had normoglycaemia and 839 had prediabetes at baseline. We used covariate-adjusted proportional hazards models to estimate associations between FRAP and risk of type 2 diabetes, risk of type 2 diabetes among participants with prediabetes, and risk of prediabetes. We used linear regression models to determine the association between FRAP score and insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). We observed 532 cases of incident type 2 diabetes, of which 259 among participants with prediabetes, and 794 cases of incident prediabetes during up to 15 years of follow-up. A higher FRAP score was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes among the total population (HR per SD FRAP 0.84, 95% CI 0.75; 0.95) and among participants with prediabetes (HR 0.85, 95% CI 0.73; 0.99), but was not associated with risk of prediabetes. Dietary FRAP was also inversely associated with HOMA-IR (beta - 0.04, 95% CI - 0.06; - 0.03). Effect estimates were generally similar between sexes. The findings of this population-based study emphasize the putative beneficial effects of a diet rich in antioxidants on insulin resistance and risk of type 2 diabetes.