8 Natural Antioxidants You May Not Know About

8 Natural Antioxidants You May Not Know About

When the cells in your body become oxidized (a complex process where they are chemically combined with oxygen), they produce compounds known as free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to cells, proteins, and potentially even your DNA, which can contribute to accelerated aging effects. Free radicals are fairly ubiquitous in the environment as well as present in everything from the food we eat to the air we breathe.

As scary as free radicals may seem, your body has its own defenses to keep free radicals at bay and minimize any damage they may incur. Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent free radicals from causing cellular damage without becoming destabilized themselves. Your body synthesizes some antioxidants on its own, but it’s generally not enough to completely balance out the flood of free radicals. Thankfully, you can get more antioxidants from your diet. Let’s take a look at some natural antioxidants that you may not know about.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble micronutrient. While you may commonly know vitamin C as a purported remedy for the common cold, it actually provides a wide variety of necessary functions in the body. Vitamin C plays an important role in the production of collagen, the main structural protein that is found in skin, muscle, and connective tissue and integral to healing wounds. Vitamin C also fuels your immune system and improves the absorption of iron. And of course, vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant, helping to protect cells from free radical damage.

Fruits and vegetables are the best natural sources of vitamin C. Most people know that oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits contain vitamin C, but strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers actually have more vitamin C by volume.

The amount of vitamin C you need can depend on your age and health status. Generally, most adult women need about 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day, while adult men need up to 90 milligrams per day. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Consuming too much vitamin C can lead to some stomach issues, including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps because the “acid” in ascorbic acid irritates gastrointestinal tissue. A vitamin C with liposomal delivery which can increase absorption without causing stomach distress.

2. Curcumin

Curcumin is the main active ingredient found in turmeric. It’s a curcuminoid, which is a type of natural pigment compound responsible for giving turmeric and other plants a vibrant yellow color. Thanks to curcumin, turmeric has become a popular ingredient for more than just providing spice and color to East Indian dishes.

Studies on curcumin suggest a wide range of potential benefits. Curcumin contains potent antioxidants to help maintain good digestion, and it has been used for centuries to support a healthy immune system and bolster existing circulatory and heart health.

Curcumin possesses antioxidant properties that contribute to many of its potential benefits. While curcumin is most often found in turmeric, the amount of turmeric you put in your food probably will not add up to enough to provide many benefits.

3. Colostrum

Liposomal bovine colostrum is the milk-like fluid produced by cows in the first few days after giving birth to their calves. While it is not an antioxidant in and of itself, colostrum is packed with antioxidants including glutathione, along with a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antibodies.

Colostrum is also rich in lactoferrin, a protein that plays a key role in the healthy function of the immune system. Evidence shows that lactoferrin acts as an antioxidant and can help in a variety of areas within the body. Lactoferrin can help regulate iron levels and bone metabolism. Lactoferrin may also help modulate your body’s healthy immune response.

4. Glutathione

Glutathione is considered one of the most important antioxidants because it exists within your cells, boosting the activities of other vitamins and antioxidants. Glutathione is a peptide made up of three main amino acids (cysteine, glycine, and glutamate). Every cell in the body produces it, and some researchers believe that measuring glutathione levels can be an accurate predictor of how long you will live.

Antioxidants, like glutathione, neutralize free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular and DNA damage. Glutathione deficiency is often characterized by greater free radical damage, or oxidative stress. Along with its antioxidant properties, glutathione plays a key role in the metabolism and breakdown of nutrients as well as the regulation of various processes, including immune response. Glutathione plays a supportive role in these functions:

  • Detoxification
  • Creation of enzymes
  • Digestion of fats
  • Protein usage
  • Preventing lipid peroxidation

Although glutathione is created naturally in the body, it can also be found in certain foods. The highest concentrations of glutathione are found in:

  • Raw or rare meat
  • Certain fruits and vegetables, particularly those that have been freshly pickled
  • Milk and dairy products that have not been pasteurized

The main problem with dietary glutathione sources is that the human body may have trouble absorbing it properly. Cooking and storage methods can also reduce the amount of glutathione present in food.

Increasing Glutathione Naturally

Certain foods and nutrients that are not glutathione-rich may still help to increase your natural glutathione levels. These include:

  • Sulfur-rich foods – Sulfur is a mineral that plays an integral role in a variety of cellular functions. It is required to support the structure and activity of certain proteins and enzymes within the body. Sulfur is also a necessary mineral for the natural synthesis of glutathione.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin most commonly known for supporting the immune system and helping to fight off the common cold. Researchers suggest that vitamin C’s own antioxidant properties may help glutathione’s survival. Some studies also show that vitamin C may increase glutathione levels, particularly in white blood cells, by converting oxidized glutathione back into its non-oxidized form.
  • Selenium – Selenium is another essential mineral that is necessary for glutathione activity. Studies have found that selenium supplements may increase glutathione peroxidase levels.

Oral supplementation is the most common and practical means of improving glutathione levels. Oral glutathione supplements are broken down into the molecule’s three amino acids, with many of the benefits attributed to L-cysteine.

5. Quercetin

Quercetin is a type of flavonoid antioxidant that is technically considered a plant pigment, responsible for creating vibrant colors in a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The best news about quercetin is that it’s easy to find. Quercetin is considered one of the most abundant antioxidants in the modern human diet and can be found in basically any plant with a red, green, or purple color.

Some sources of quercetin include:

  • Spinach, kale, and other leafy green vegetables
  • Broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables
  • Apples
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark cherries, blueberries, and blackberries

6. Lutein

Lutein is a carotenoid antioxidant that is most well-known for supporting eye health. In fact, of the over 600 carotenoids found in nature, lutein is just one of two that is sent directly to the macular portion of your eyes.

Along with eye health, studies show that lutein can maintain skin health by helping to filter high energy wavelengths of light, thereby slowing down oxidative stress. Other evidence suggests that lutein may help to support heart health. Low levels of lutein in the blood were found to contribute to the thickening of arterial walls.

Lutein cannot be synthesized within the body, which means that it can only be obtained through diet. Lutein can be found in a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Some excellent sources of lutein include:

  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green beans
  • Turnip greens
  • Spinach

7. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a polyphenolic bioflavonoid found in a variety of plants (along with foods and drinks derived from plants). This antioxidant is categorized as a phytoestrogen as it positively interacts with estrogen receptors. Plants create resveratrol as a protective mechanism to combat environmental stressors.

Along with its potent antioxidant properties, resveratrol can help support cardiovascular health by improving circulation and promoting healthy cholesterol levels. It can also help to support cellular and tissue health and support a healthy digestive system.

Although resveratrol can be obtained by supplement use, plants are the most abundant source of resveratrol. The antioxidant is particularly common in the skin of red grapes. Other sources of Resveratrol include:

  • Raw cocoa
  • Lingonberries
  • Blueberries
  • Mulberries
  • Pistachios
  • Itadori tea

Red wine is one of the best-known sources of resveratrol, thanks in part to the grape skins and seeds used in the fermentation process. However, don’t go overboard on your red wine intake. The alcohol content can counteract the good effects of the antioxidants. Drink responsibly.

8. Selenium

Selenium is a trace element that is nutritionally essential for all humans. It is a constituent of over two dozen selenoproteins and exists in organic and inorganic forms (both of which can act as good dietary sources). Most selenium in animal and human tissues comes in the form of selenomethionine, which can combine with the amino acid methionine in body proteins. Selenium can help to support the adrenal and thyroid glands and maintain cardiovascular health.

Selenium is naturally present in the soil, water, and most foods. Organ meats and seafood tend to have the richest selenium content, though Brazil nuts have the most selenium compared to any other food. In an American diet, selenium usually comes from grains, poultry, fish, and eggs.

Antioxidants play an integral in your overall health and well-being. Best of all, most antioxidant-rich foods also offer a diverse range of other vitamins and minerals, so it’s a win all around.