Natural Antioxidants should be the first line of defense in our battle with oxidative stress. “Natural” means that the particular substance occurs naturally in nature.
However, the form in which it is consumed can range from eating the raw fruit or vegetables that created it or taking an extract of the host plant such as grape seed extract or green tea extract.
If consumed in supplement pill or capsule form, “natural” means that the formulation was created from real plants, preferably hydroponically grown where the nutrients fed to the plants can be tightly controlled.
What are antioxidants?
It’s not really hard at all to get a good, quality intake of these protective nutrients if we know what to look for, they’re everywhere.
Basically, some vitamins have antioxidant capabilities, as do some of the trace minerals and a whole host of phytonutrients have oxygen radical absorbing properties.
The Best Antioxidant is TURMERIC
Dr. Joseph Mercola, who publishes a great newsletter on a wide variety of health issues, recently did a whole, long treatise on the antioxidant capabilities of a spice; turmeric.
He believes it to be the best of the best in antioxidants; and he may be right.
Turmeric is an East Indian spice that contains curcumin, which in turn is a phytonutrient phenol.
Turmeric Health Benefits
- Enhances protection against free radicals
- Helps promote healthy skin
- Supports overall eye health
- Provides immune system support
- Aids skeletal system and joint health
- Encourages healthy liver function
- Helps maintain healthy cells with support against free radicals
- Balances digestive system health
- Supports healthy blood and circulatory system
- Helps maintain normal cholesterol levels
- Supports adverse reactions to stress
- Promotes a healthy female reproductive system
- Helps maintain already healthy blood sugar levels
This list was included here to illustrate that the benefits of these substances go far beyond neutralizing free radicals although it is through the minimizing of free radicals that the collateral benefits are realized.
Since each of the vitamins, trace minerals and phytonutrients are unique in their chemical structure, it follows that each will have a different mechanism as to its antioxidant function in our bodies.
Touching on two of the main radical fighting vitamins, first we have vitamin E which is actually a catch-all generic term. It is used to refer to eight chemical compounds that have vitamin E activity, collectively known as tocopherols.
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Alpha-tocopherol is the most widely available and has the strongest effect on the body. It is fat-soluble which gives it the ability to protect cell membranes from free radical damage. It was mentioned above that cell membranes are mostly fatty acids and if they are attacked by free radicals, cell death can result.
Next is vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which is a water-soluble vitamin as opposed to the fat soluble vitamin E. Being water soluble, it can neutralize free radicals found in a watery environment, such as the interior of cells. Vitamin C and vitamin E work together to rid the body of free radicals.
Phytonutrients as antioxidants
In addition to curcumin (turmeric), mentioned above, another important antioxidant phytonutrient is the carotenoid, Beta-Carotene. This is a water-soluble nutrient and is the most widely studied of the 600 carotenoids identified to date. Beta carotene is believed to be the most effective carotenoid in protecting against certain energized forms of oxygen that are particularly toxic to cells.
Trace Minerals Function as Antioxidants
Trace minerals are not antioxidants in themselves but are needed for the production of certain antioxidant enzymes.
Selenium is a trace mineral that we need to consume in only very small quantities, but without which we could not survive. It forms the active site of several antioxidant enzymes including glutathione peroxidase.
Also the trace minerals manganese and zinc form an essential part of various antioxidant enzymes.
Three antioxidant enzymes that comprise the main line of defense against free radicals were briefly mentioned above. They are superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx).
pHion is the category leader when it pertains to pH balancing of the body.
Superoxide dismutase neutralizes a positively charged oxygen atom by adding an electron to its outer shell thus completing its full complement of eight electrons and restoring its neutral charge. The end products of this contributed electron are hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and oxygen (O2).
Step two occurs with Catalase and glutathione peroxidase working simultaneously with the protein glutathione to convert (or reduce) the hydrogen peroxide to water.
Then there is a step three where the oxidized glutathione from step two is acted on by another antioxidant enzyme, glutathione reductase and finally balance is restored.
Their are several products on the market that claim to support cellular health by direct supplementation of glutathione but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
The glutathione molecure is too large to be directly absorbed in the digestive tract thus an effective supplement will supply the building blocks of glutathione which can be absorbed and put to use.
So far, the best product we have found for supporting glutathione levels is described at Glutathione Support.
What this action does is to repair oxidized DNA, degrade oxidized protein, and destroy oxidized lipids (fat cells). That was just one example.
There are various other enzymes that act as a secondary antioxidant defense mechanism to protect us from further damage. Wow, could all that just be the product of accidental evolution?
Other Anti-Oxidation Nutrients
Besides the enzymes, vitamins, and trace minerals mentioned previously, there are many other nutrients and compounds that appear to have antioxidant properties.
Among them is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, or ubiquinone), which is essential to energy production and can also protect the body from destructive free radicals.
Also, uric acid, a product of DNA metabolism, has become increasingly recognized as an important factor in ridding ourselves of free radicals.