Natural Antioxidant Supplements and Vitamins The human body
derives its energy from the utilization of nutrients and oxygen as
fuel. It also utilizes oxygen to help the immune system destroy
foreign substances and combat disease. The byproducts of this and
other metabolic processes can lead to the development of molecular
agents that react with body tissues in a process called oxidation.
While this process is a natural consequence of the energy generation
system, its byproducts called "free radicals" can damage healthy
cells. Antioxidants work in several ways: First, they may reduce the
energy of the free radical. Second, they may stop the free radical
from forming in the first place. And finally antioxidants interrupt
the oxidizing chain reaction to minimize the damage caused by free
Many members of the medical and scientific
communities believe that free radicals are major factors leading to
more than sixty different health problems including aging, cancer,
and atherosclerosis. Reducing exposure to free radicals and
increasing intake of antioxidant nutrients has the potential to
reduce the risk of health conditions caused by free
Our bodies produce several antioxidant enzymes,
including superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase, and
catalase, that destroy many types of harmful free radicals.
Supplements of these enzymes are available for oral administration.
However, supplementing with the building blocks the body uses to
make SOD, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase may prove to be more
effective. These building block nutrients include the minerals
manganese, zinc, and copper for SOD, and selenium for glutathione
In addition to enzymes, many vitamins and
minerals such as
vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, vitamin B2, coenzyme Q10, and
cysteine (an amino acid) act as natural antioxidants. Herbs, such as
milk thistle, aloe vera,
cascara sagrada, bilberry, turmeric (curcumin),
grape seed or pine bark extracts, and
ginkgo can also provide powerful antioxidant protection for the body and help inhibit many of the
health problems associated with free radicals.
Consuming a wide variety of antioxidant enzymes,
vitamins, minerals, and
is recommended as the best way to provide the body with the most
complete protection against free radical damage.
Sources of Antioxidants
Natural antioxidants are most
abundant in fruits and vegetables, as well as in other foods
including grains, nuts, and some red meats, poultry and fish. The
list below describes food sources of common antioxidants.
If you're diet doesn't include a large
amount of the food sources above we strongly suggest supplementing
with antioxidant vitamins or taking complete antioxidant
- Beta-carotene can be found in many foods that are orange in
color, including carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots,
squash, pumpkin, and mangos. Some green leafy vegetables are also
rich in beta-carotene. Some of these include collard greens,
spinach, and kale .
- Lycopene is a potent antioxidant most commonly found in
tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, guava, apricots, pink grapefruit,
blood oranges, and other foods. It is estimated that nearly 85
percent of American dietary intake of lycopene comes from tomatoes
and tomato based products.
- Lutein, well known for its association with healthy eyes, is
found in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens,
- Selenium is a mineral, not technically an antioxidant in its
own right. However, it is an important component of most
antioxidant enzymes. Plant foods like rice and wheat are the the
most common dietary sources of selenium in most countries. The
concentration of selenium in soil, which varies by region,
determines the amount of selenium in the foods grown in that soil.
Consequently, animals that eat grains or plants grown in
selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium in their bodies.
In the United States, breads and meat are typical sources of
dietary selenium. Brazil nuts also contain large quantities of
- Vitamin A is found in three main forms: retinol (Vitamin A1),
3,4-didehydroretinol (Vitamin A2), and 3-hydroxy-retinol (Vitamin
A3). Foods will a lot of vitamin A include liver, carrots, sweet
potatoes, egg yolks, milk and mozzarella cheese.
- Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant that can be found in
high concentrations in many fruits and vegetables. It can also be
found in cereals, beef, poultry and fish products.
- Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, is found in many
oils including wheat germ, corn, safflower and soybean oils, and
is also found in mangos, nuts (almonds), broccoli and other