Antioxidants are, without a doubt, an essential part of optimal health.   Even conventional Western physicians now acknowledge the significance of getting sufficient antioxidants from your diet or taking high quality antioxidant supplements.

But do you know how antioxidants function in your body and what types you need?

Since free radicals can strike either the watery cell contents or the fatty cellular membrane, you need both types of antioxidants to ensure full protection from oxidative damage.

Astaxanthin is actually a lipid-soluble antioxidant, while resveratrol is a water-soluble antioxidant. Each type of antioxidant has its own special function.

When classified according to their solubility, antioxidants can be categorized as either soluble in lipids/fat (hydrophobic) or water (hydrophilic). Both of these are required by your body in order to protect your cells, since the interior of your cells and the fluid between them are composed of water, while the cell membranes themselves are mostly made of fat.

Lipid-soluble antioxidants are the ones that protect your cell membranes from lipid peroxidation. They are mostly located in your cell membranes. Some examples of lipid-soluble antioxidants are vitamins A and E, carotenoids, and lipoic acid. Ester C is a lipid soluble Vitamin C.

Water-soluble antioxidants are found in aqueous fluids, like your blood and the fluids within and around your cells (cytosol or cytoplasmic matrix). Some examples of water-soluble antioxidants are vitamin C, polyphenols, and glutathione.

However, solubility is not the only way to categorize antioxidants. They can also be categorized as enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants.

  • Enzymatic antioxidants benefit you by breaking down and removing free radicals. They can flush out dangerous oxidative products by converting them into hydrogen peroxide, then into water. This is done through a multi-step process that requires a number of trace metal cofactors, such as zinc, copper, manganese, and iron. Enzymatic antioxidants cannot be found in supplements, but instead are produced in your body.

The main enzymatic antioxidants in your body are:

  • Superoxide dismutase (SOD)can break down superoxide into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen, with the help of copper, zinc, manganese, and iron. It is found in almost all aerobic cells and extracellular fluids.
  • Catalase (CAT) works by converting hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, using iron and manganese cofactors. It finishes up the detoxification process started by SOD.
  • Glutathione peroxidaseand glutathione reductase are selenium-containing enzymes that help break down hydrogen peroxide and organic peroxides into alcohols. They are most abundant in your liver.
  • Non-enzymatic antioxidants benefit you by interrupting free radical chain reactions. Some examples are carotenoids, VITAMIN C, vitamin E, plant polyphenols, and glutathione . Most antioxidants found in supplements and foods are non-enzymatic, and they provide support to enzymatic antioxidants by doing a “first sweep” and disarming the free radicals. This helps prevent your enzymatic antioxidants from being depleted.

Antioxidants can also be classified in terms of their molecular size:

  • Small-molecule antioxidantswork by mopping up or “scavenging” the reactive oxygen species and carrying them away through chemical neutralization. The main players in this category are vitamins C and E, glutathione, lipoic acid, carotenoids, and CoQ10.

  Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) – Aside from its free radical scavenging abilities, this powerful antioxidant is also a:

  • Great modifier of gene expression to reduce inflammation
  • Very potent heavy metal chelator
  • Enhancer of insulin sensitivity

ALA is the only antioxidant that can be easily transported into your brain, which offers numerous benefits for people with brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease. ALA can also regenerate other antioxidants, like vitamins C and E and glutathione. This means that if your body has used up these antioxidants, ALA can help regenerate them.5

CoQ10 (Ubiquinone) – Used by every cell in your body, CoQ10 is converted by your body to its reduced form, called ubiquinol, to maximize its benefits. CoQ10 has been the subject of thousands of studies. Aside from naturally protecting you from free radicals, it also:

  • Helps produce more energy for your cells
  • Provides support for your heart health, immune system, and nervous system
  • Helps reduce the signs of normal aging
  • Helps maintain blood pressure levels within the normal range6

If you’re under 25 years old, your body can convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol without any difficulty. However, when you get older, your body becomes more and more challenged to convert the oxidized CoQ10 to ubiquinol. Therefore, you may need to take a ubiquinol supplement.

Glutathione Protects Against Chronic Illness

What makes glutathione so important and powerful is that it recycles antioxidants. When your body is dealing with free radicals, it is essentially passing them from one molecule to another. They might go from vitamin C to vitamin E to lipoic acid and then to glutathione where they are cooled off. Antioxidants are recycled at this point and the body can now regenerate another glutathione molecule to go back at it again.

Glutathione is crucial for helping your immune system fight chronic illness as it acts as the carrier of toxins out of your body. Like a fly trap, toxins stick to glutathione and they are carried to the bile into the stools and out of the body.

Here are some food sources that either contain glutathione or its precursors to help the body produce more:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Avocados
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Turmeric (Curcumin)
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Red peppers

There are antioxidants that cannot be manufactured inside your body, and must be obtained from antioxidant-rich foods or potent antioxidant supplements. These are:

  • Grapes contain high levels of resveratrol.

Resveratrol – Found in certain fruits like grapes, vegetables, cocoa, and red wine, this antioxidant can cross the blood-brain barrier, providing protection for your brain and nervous system.7

Resveratrol has been found to be so effective at warding off aging-related diseases that it was dubbed the “fountain of youth.”

Aside from providing free radical protection, this antioxidant can help:

  • Inhibit the spread of cancer, especially prostate cancer
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Keep your heart healthy and improve elasticity of your blood vessels
  • Normalize your anti-inflammatory response
  • Prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • Carotenoids give foods their beautiful vibrant color.

Carotenoids are a class of naturally-occurring pigments that have powerful antioxidant properties. They are the compounds that give foods their vibrant colors. There are over 700 naturally-occurring carotenoids, and right now, you probably have at least 10 different kinds circulating through your bloodstream.9 Carotenoids can be classified into two groups:

  1. Carotenes contain no oxygen atoms. Some examples are lycopene (found in red tomatoes) and beta-carotene (found in orange carrots), which is converted by your body into vitamin A.
  2. Xanthophylls  contain oxygen atoms, and examples include lutein, canthaxanthin (the gold in chanterelle mushrooms), zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is the most common carotenoid that naturally exists in nature and is found in peppers, kiwi, maize, grapes, squash, and oranges.
  • Astaxanthin– Although it’s technically a carotenoid, I believe this antioxidant deserves its own special mention due to its superb nutritional advantage. Astaxanthin is a marine carotenoid produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, to give itself protection from ultraviolet radiation.

I believe that astaxanthin is the most powerful carotenoid in terms of free radical scavenging. It is 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene, and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E.

Like resveratrol, it can also cross the blood-brain barrier, AND the blood-retinal barrier – something that beta-carotene and lycopene cannot do.

Astaxanthin is also more effective than other carotenoids at “singlet oxygen quenching,” a particular type of oxidation caused by sunlight and various organic materials. Astaxanthin is 550 times more powerful than vitamin E and 11 times more powerful than beta-carotene at neutralizing this singlet oxygen.12

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant with wide ranging benefits, such as:

  • Supporting your immune function
  • Improving your cardiovascular health by reducing C-Reactive Proteins (CRP) and triglycerides, and increasing beneficial HDL
  • Protecting your eyes from cataracts, macular degeneration, and blindness
  • Protecting your brain from dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Reducing your risk of different types of cancer
  • Promoting recovery from spinal cord and other central nervous system injuries
  • Reducing inflammation from all causes, including arthritis and asthma
  • Improving your endurance, workout performance, and recovery
  • Relieving indigestion and reflux
  • Helping stabilize your blood sugar, thereby protecting your kidneys
  • Increasing sperm strength and sperm count and improving fertility
  • Helping prevent sunburn and protecting you from damaging radiation effects
  • Reducing oxidative damage to your DNA
  • Reducing symptoms of diseases, such as pancreatitis, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases
  • Vitamin C– Dubbed the “grandfather” of the traditional antioxidants, vitamin C has a wide range of astonishing health benefits. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can help:
    • Battle oxidation by acting as a major electron donor
    • Maintain optimal electron flow in your cells
    • Protect proteins, lipids, and other vital molecular elements in your body

Vitamin C is also essential for collagen synthesis, which is an important structural component of your bones, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments.

You can get vitamin C from raw, organic vegetables and fruits,ALSO FROM SUPERFOODS LIKE CAMU CAMU AND ACEROLA POWDER but you can also take it as a supplement or have it administered intravenously (IV).  When taking a vitamin C supplement, opt for one made with liposomal technology, which makes the nutrient more absorbable to your cells such as Ester C.

  • Vitamin E– Natural vitamin E is a family of eight different compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. You can obtain all these vitamin E compounds from a balanced diet composed of wholesome foods. However, if you take a synthetic vitamin E supplement, you will only get one of the eight compounds.  

 Tips to increase your Glutathione levels:

 Consume sulfur-rich foods. The main ones in the diet are garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.).

Exercise boosts your glutathione levels and thereby helps boost your immune system, improve detoxification and enhance your body’s own antioxidant defenses. Start slow and build up to 30 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, or play various sports. Strength training for 20 minutes 3 times a week is also helpful.

One would think it would be easy just to take glutathione as a pill, but the body digests protein — so you wouldn’t get the benefits if you did it this way. However, the production and recycling of glutathione in the body requires many different nutrients and you CAN take these. Here are the main supplements that need to be taken consistently to boost glutathione. Besides taking a multivitamin and fish oil, supporting my glutathione levels with these supplements is the most important thing I do every day for my personal health.

N-acetyl-cysteine. This has been used for years to help treat asthma and lung disease and to treat people with life-threatening liver failure from Tylenol overdose. In fact, I first learned about it in medical school while working in the emergency room. It is even given to prevent kidney damage from dyes used during x-ray studies.
 Alpha lipoic acid. This is a close second to glutathione in importance in our cells and is involved in energy production, blood sugar control, brain health and detoxification. The body usually makes it, but given all the stresses we are under, we often become depleted.

 Methylation nutrients (folate and vitamins B6 and B12). These are perhaps the most critical to keep the body producing glutathione. Methylation and the production and recycling of glutathione are the two most important biochemical functions in your body. Take folate (especially in the active form of 5 methyltetrahydrofolate), B6 (in active form of P5P) and B12 (in the active form of methylcobalamin).

Selenium. This important mineral helps the body recycle and produce more glutathione.

A family of antioxidants including vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols), work together to recycle glutathione.

Milk thistle (silymarin) has long been used in liver disease and helps boost glutathione levels