Modern life and our poor dietary intake (fast convenient food), low nutrient status, environmental toxins and chemicals, inflammation, aging, stress, medications/drugs, all cause increased oxidation in the body.
Free radicals are what cause oxidation, and this oxidation results in DNA damage, disease, and accelerated aging. Antioxidants are so important for us, because they provide a protective effect. They go within the cell and absorb free radicals, thereby playing a crucial role in the destruction of cell mutations and even cancerous cells.
You can find the most antioxidants in plant sources, fruits and vegetables. But which antioxidants are the most powerful?
Glutathione is the ‘master’ antioxidant within every cell of the body, and is involved in the recycling of other antioxidants so that when you increase your glutathione levels, you can increase other antioxidants also (such as vitamin C and E).
Glutathione is critical for phase II liver detoxification, it also improves immune function, maintains energy and metabolism, and provides protection against environmental toxins.
You’ll find glutathione in: asparagus, avocado, capsicum, bok choy, cabbage, kale, watercress, onions, garlic, broccoli, apples, oranges, bananas, eggs. You can also increase the glutathione levels by consuming selenium (alfalfa, brazil nuts, butter, cashews, celery, tuna, peanuts, cheese, eggs), alpha-lipoic acid (brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, peas tomatoes, and peas), glycine (gelatin, beans, fish, nuts), cysteine (beans, beef, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, garlic), and glutamine (beans, cottage cheese, legumes, ricotta, rolled oats).
Astaxanthin is powerful because it protects the whole cell, not just one part of it.
Astaxanthin is particularly good for easing sore joints and muscle damage, as well as having a positive effect on blood chemistry and lowering blood pressure. Interestingly, it also provides protection against UV radiation. Astaxanthin gives some seafood its pink colour.
Astaxanthin has the ability to absorb free radicals at a rate that is 6,000 times higher than vitamin C and 550 times higher than vitamin E.
You’ll find astaxanthin in: lobster, salmon, crab, trout and shrimp
Resveratrol is an anti-aging antioxidant because it protects against tissue damage.
It has been shown to be beneficial in treatment of age-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease (preventing build-up of plaque in the arteries), obesity, type II diabetes, and protecting cognitive health.
You’ll find resveratrol in: red wine, cacao/ dark chocolate, dark coloured berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, mulberries, red currants, cranberries red grapes), peanuts, pistachios.
Curcumin is an antioxidant found in turmeric that has many properties including antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic activity, and anticarcinogenic.
Turmeric has even been shown to be as effective as some pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory medications (Takada 2004). Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, and therefore it’s best to consume black pepper (or in supplement form piperine) which has been shown to increase absorption by 2,000% (Shoba 1998).
Proanthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
Research has shown proanthocyanidins have a positive effect on cardiovascular health such as lowering the risks of hypertension and stroke, have anti-cancer and anti-tumour activity, are anti-allergic, and also have beneficial effects on encouraging healthy bacteria to flourish in the gut (Yang 2018).
You’ll find proanthocyanidins in: grapes, apples, blueberries, cranberries, blackcurrants, peanuts, pomegranates, almonds, and red wine.
Quercetin has anticancer, anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and is one of the most abundant antioxidants found in plant foods.
Quercetin is beneficial for cardiovascular health issues, autoimmunity, allergies and respiratory concerns, stress, and all inflammatory conditions, and so much more.
You’ll find quercetin in: elderberries, cherries, pomegranate, apples, onions, capsicum, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, citrus, olive oil, legumes, garlic, and red wine.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that plays a fundamental role in the conversion of energy from carbohydrates and fats to ATP.
CoQ10 neutralizes free radicals, improves energy, modulate and boost the immune system, and has been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, allergies, and fatigue (Rajiv 2011). CoQ10 decreases with age, so it’s important to uptake this nutrient through a varied diet.
You’ll find CoQ10 in: salmon, tuna, organ meats, pork, beef, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, soybeans, sesame seeds, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower.
The antioxidant lutein helps prevent damage to the eyes caused by sun exposure, and provides a preventative measure to age-related vision loss and cataracts.
You’ll find Lutein in: carrots, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, corn, eggs, oranges, papaya, broccoli.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports a healthy immune function and protects the body from pathogens, as well as repairs tissue and boosts the absorption of other nutrients such as iron.
You’ll find vitamin C in: red capsicum, green capsicum, peas, tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower parsley, kale, black currants, kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, mangoes, lemon.
Hydroxytyrosol is the most powerful antioxidant, with an ORAC value of 68,576 – for example it is considered to be 3 times higher than CoQ10 (Richards 2018).
Its ability to absorb damaging free radicals and protect cells from damage is therefore extremely high and believed to be due to its oleic content. Hydroxytyrosol is primarily found in the fruit, leaves and pulp of olives.
Mediterranean countries have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer than other Western countries, and this is believed to be partly linked to the high intake of olives and olive oil as part of the Mediterranean diet.
You’ll find hydroxytyrosol in: olives and olive oil (unheated).
Antioxidant intake in the western world is low. As always, prevention is the best cure, and so by intaking high antioxidant levels, we provide a protective effect to the body.
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Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of conditions commonly affecting women and children, with a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions, as well as women’s hormonal concerns, digestive issues, fatigue, anxiety, and skin concerns. Yvette consults in Camberwell and South Yarra, Melbourne, as well as Australia-wide via skype/zoom/phone. Book here.