- Because there are many different types of antioxidants that can protect your tissues from different types of damage, it is best to eat a range of antioxidant-rich foods.
- How much you benefit from the antioxidants found in the foods you eat depends on how well you breakdown and absorb these foods.
- One of the best ways of making sure that you are getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet is to strive to eat lots of fresh vegetables. If you just don’t have the time to eat a large green salad every day, consider buying a good juicer and drinking a fresh vegetable juice on a daily basis.
- When washing and preparing vegetables and fruits, be sure to wash non-organic varieties with extra care to help remove pesticide residues. This is especially important for vegetables and fruits that are known to be heavily contaminated with pesticides.
What to Look For in Antioxidant Formulas
There is no such thing as an ultimate antioxidant, but look for a formula that incorporates something approximating the scope listed below and that approximates the levels of each ingredient as listed. It may contain more of any particular ingredient, but if it contains substantially less, it’s merely there as label dressing.
- Beta Carotene (5,000 IU)–Carotenoids are phytonutrients that protect plants from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation and other environmental factors. In humans, they have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of various types of cancer cells, such as those affecting the lungs, stomach, cervix, breast, bladder, and mouth. They also have been proven to protect against atherosclerosis, cataracts, macular degeneration, and other major degenerative disorders. Probably the best known of the carotenoids, beta carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A as needed to strengthen the immune system and promote healthy cell growth. In addition, beta carotene is a potent antioxidant, offering particular benefits to the immune system and the lungs. (Note: synthetic beta carotene, which is made from acetylene gas, is to be avoided at all costs.)
- Alpha Carotene (400 IU)–Recent studies have shown that alpha carotene is one of the most powerful carotenoids and has a strong inhibitory effect on cancer. It works by allowing normal cells to send growth-regulating signals to premalignant cells. It is usually found as part of a natural beta carotene complex.
- Lutein (8 mg)–In addition to being specific for the prevention of macular degeneration (lowering the risk by over 50 percent), lutein has also been shown to have strong anti-cancer properties. Its antioxidant effect is significantly enhanced by the presence of zeaxanthin and bilberry. When combined with vitamin C, these three antioxidants have been shown to significantly decrease the risk of cataracts.”
- Lycopene (6 mg)–Derived primarily from tomatoes (cooked with olive oil, not raw), lycopene appears to be one of the best defenses against prostate and bladder cancers. When used by itself, study results are mixed, but when used in conjunction with vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) and green tea extract, studies indicate that lycopene inhibits prostate cancer proliferation by 90 percent. (Studies aside, if you decide to supplement with the lycopene/vitamin E combination, I would strongly recommend using a full-spectrum natural vitamin E with all the tocotrienols and tocopherols, not just the d-alpha fraction.
- Zeaxanthin (300 mcg)–Lutein and zeaxanthin are both part of a group of carotenoids known as xanthophylls, which are extremely beneficial to the eyes and help significantly in the prevention of macular degeneration.
- Selenium (75 mcg, methylselenocysteine)–Selenium is synergistic with glutathione and the enzyme catalase in helping to protect the integrity of cell membranes. It stops the growth of tumors, and it protects the liver. Low levels of selenium have been linked to death from heart disease and cancer of all kinds. Some studies have shown that selenium may be 50–100 times more powerful than any other anti-carcinogen known. [With more and more selenium appearing in vitamins and other supplements, it is important to monitor so that you do not get too much or it becomes toxic.]
- N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) (225 mg)–One of the keys to a healthy immune system is maintaining high levels of glutathione in the body. Unfortunately, supplementing with glutathione directly doesn’t really help, but there are alternatives. Supplementation with N-acetyl-cysteine has been proven to substantially raise the body’s glutathione levels. In addition, NAC supplementation is mandatory for all smokers and big-city dwellers as it protects against toxic aldehydes that enter the body through cigarette smoke and pollution.”
- “L-Methionine (225 mg)–An essential sulfur-containing amino acid, methionine is a powerful antioxidant and liver detoxifier, where it assists in the normal detoxification processes. As an antioxidant, it provides powerful protection in the colon. Methionine is also involved in the synthesis of choline, adrenaline, lecithin, SAMe, and vitamin B12.
- Quercetin (150 mg)–Quercetin is in a class of antioxidants known as bioflavonoids. A prime role of quercetin is to protect the integrity of cell walls from free-radical damage. In addition, quercetin prevents the release of histamines into the bloodstream, thereby helping to control food and pollen allergies.
- Ginkgo Biloba (150 mg, 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones)–Known as the brain antioxidant, ginkgo has been shown to increase brain functionality, which makes it useful in helping to improve concentration and memory. This makes it a specific for Alzheimer’s disease, where it has the added benefit of helping to significantly reduce depression. In addition, ginkgo oxygenates the blood, increases circulation, and strengthens blood vessels. Its anti-inflammatory, lung-relaxant properties have proven useful in the treatment of asthma, where it eases coughing and reduces tissue inflammation.
- Curcumin (120 mg)–Curcumin is what gives the spice turmeric its yellow color. Studies have shown that it can inhibit colon cancer cells by 96 percent in a matter of hours. It appears to have great potential in countering the effects of prostate and breast cancers. In a sense, curcumin can be thought of as natural chemotherapy, with the ability to selectively kill cancer cells while at the same time leaving normal cells alone. Note: Curcumin and green tea strongly reinforce each other.”
- Green Tea Extract (120 mg, 95 percent polyphenols)–Green tea antioxidants are of the same family as grape seed and pine bark extracts. They are polyphenols, chief of which are the flavonoids called proanthocyanidins. In green tea, the main proanthocyanidins are the catechins, and the most powerful of the catechins is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), found in the highest concentration in green tea. It works to prevent tumors from developing the blood vessels they need to survive (anti-angiogenesis) and it has been shown to inhibit metastasis. It is the first known natural telomerase inhibitor, eliminating the ‘immortality’ of cancer cells, which is what makes them so deadly. Green tea is particularly effective in destroying the causes of leukemia, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. It has also been shown to be effective in regulating blood sugar, reducing triglycerides, and in reversing the ravages of heart disease. (Incidentally, the Japanese, who drink large amounts of green tea, have some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease in the world.) Green tea seems to almost totally prevent cancer from causing DNA damage in smokers—a possible explanation as to why the Japanese, who are among the world’s heaviest smokers, have such a low incidence of lung cancer. Finally, green tea has great benefits for the brain as well, serving as an effective monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, protecting against brain-cell death. The net result is that there are strong indications that green tea extract may play a major role in protecting against both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Note: the consumption of casein from dairy products can completely block the absorption of the main catechins found in green tea. In other words, drink your tea without milk, and take your green tea supplements separate from any dairy in your diet. Or, even better, just think of this as another reason to eliminate dairy from your diet.”
- Bilberry (120 mg, 25 percent anthocyanins)–The anthocyanosides found in bilberry are known for their ability to help nourish and repair the tiny capillaries within the eye. In addition, bilberry bioflavonoids are beneficial to the connective tissue that lines blood vessels and binds ligaments throughout the body.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid (100 mg)–Sometimes called the ‘mother’ antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) plays a major role in helping recycle vitamins E and C so that they can be used again by your body. ALA is one of the main boosters of glutathione levels in body cells and a key co-factor involved in generating energy in the cells’ mitochondria. Finally, ALA has also been shown to rejuvenate the cognitive skills significantly of people as they age. [Note: R-lipoic acid is the more bioactive form.] If you use R-lipoic acid, only 50 mg is required.
- Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) (75 mg, water-dispersible granules as opposed to oil based)–Superoxide dismutase works along with glutathione to neutralize reactive oxygen molecules in the body. SOD specifically targets the superoxide radical, which, as we discussed earlier, attacks cell mitochondria. When mitochondria are destroyed, the cell loses its ability to convert food to energy, and dies. SOD also works in the cytoplasm of the cell to prevent the hydroxyl radical from attacking enzymes, proteins, and the unsaturated fats in cell membranes.
- Tocotrienols (75 mg)–Derived from rice bran or palm oil, tocotrienols are a unique vitamin E fraction that is forty times more powerful than standard d-alpha tocopherol vitamin E. Most tocotrienol formulations are also rich in the gamma-tocopherol fraction of vitamin E, which strongly inhibits both the estrogen-responsive and the non-estrogen-responsive breast cancer cells.
- Grape Skin Extract (60 mg, 50 percent stabilized resveratrol)–For several years, grape seed extract was all the rage. As it turns out, grape skin extract, also known as resveratrol, is equally powerful. In controlled studies, resveratrol has been shown to reduce skin cancer tumors by up to 98 percent and to stop production of leukemia cells. In addition, it works as a cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitor, thus halting the spread of cancer throughout the body. And new studies indicate it may significantly slow down the aging process and prolong life.”
- Grape Seed Extract (60 mg, 84 – 93 percent oligomeric proanthocyanidins) — Similar to green tea, the active ingredients in grape seed extract are proanthocyanidins (although in a different combination and ratio). The importance of the proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract is that they are water-soluble and highly bioavailable. Grape seed extract is known as a defender of the circulatory system: it improves peripheral circulation, revives declining capillary activity by up to 140 percent, and increases vascular response by 82 percent. It repairs varicose veins and aids in the prevention of bruising. In addition, grape seed extract is synergistic with vitamin C, vastly increasing vitamin C activity and strengthening collagen activity, including in the connective tissue of the arterial wall and the skin.
- Chaparral Extract (300 mcg)–The active antioxidant in chaparral, a lignin called nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), has been shown to specifically target virtually all forms of herpes virus. Studies of a derivative of NDGA have proven to be even more effective than acylovir, the prescription drug of choice, at inhibiting the replication of the herpes simplex virus. And maybe even more important, there was no rapid buildup of drug resistance as happens with acyclovir. It is an effective counter to radiation-induced free-radical damage. There are also strong indications that chaparral extract is an effective aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Catalase (300 mcg)–Glutathione perioxidase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase are the primary three enzymes produced in the body as an antioxidant defense. Catalase is specific for protection against tumors.”
What You Won’t Find in Antioxidant Formulas
“There are other antioxidants that are also well worth taking, but because of the quantity needed to be effective, they need to be taken separately.
- Red Raspberry (40 mg, active ellagitannins)–Scientific studies have proven that supplementation with 40 mg per day of red raspberry ellagitannins prevents the development of cancer cells. (It takes a full cup of red raspberry puree to get 40 mg of active ellagitannins.) At low concentrations, it slows the growth of cancer cells; at higher concentrations, it forces cancer cells to self-destruct. Note: There are a number of supplements with ellagic acid, but this form does not work as well as the full ellagitannin complex and may produce side effects such as high blood pressure.
- Pomegranate (500 mg ellagitannins)–In the past few years, studies of pomegranates have shown components that inhibit skin and breast cancers, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. Pomegranate juice is an antioxidant powerhouse, packed with both the polyphenols that make red wine and green tea effective and the ellagitannins that produce the health benefits of red raspberries. According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who drank just 2 ounces of pomegranate juice a day for a week increased antioxidant activity by 9 percent. Supplementation with pomegranate extract makes sense if you are looking at cancer prevention, maintaining a healthy heart, reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and protecting against free radicals and aging. In fact, use both red raspberry and pomegranate: the mix of ellagitannins in the two foods appear to be both different and complementary.
- Noni Leaf (500 mg; or noni fruit extract concentrated 5:1)–The active biochemical in noni powder, proexeronine, is readily converted in the body to xeronine, an alkaloid that is necessary in virtually every cell in the body. Raising the levels of xeronine to optimum levels can produce profound health effects, and noni appears unique in its ability to accomplish this. It also triggers the release of nitric oxide from the body’s cells, a key component in optimizing blood pressure, alleviating erectile dysfunction, and in fighting viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, and the development of tumors. It is also associated with optimizing learning, memory, and sleep, and reducing the pain associated with inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Goji (500 mg, 40 percent polysaccharides)–Studies have shown that goji berry can induce an immune response and may possess potential therapeutic efficacy in cancer. Other studies have demonstrated that goji induces a remarkable adaptability to exercise load, enhanced resistance, and accelerated elimination of fatigue. And finally, goji has demonstrated the ability to prevent and reverse the effects of free-radical damage.
- Mangosteen (500 mg)–Mangosteen contains a unique group of antioxidants called xanthones. Xanthones, particularly beta and gamma mangostin, maintain the immune system, support cardiovascular health, optimize joint flexibility, are naturally antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, and are some of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature (over 14 times the ORAC value of red raspberries). In addition, recent studies have confirmed that gamma mangostin is a potent cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitor, an important factor in reducing inflammation, pain, and fever.
- L-Carnosine (500–1,500 mg)–L-carnosine is a naturally occurring combination of two amino acids, alanine and histadine that can actually reverse the signs of aging. It works as an antioxidant to protect cellular protein from attack by carbonyl groups and prevents the oxidation of sugars in the body. Supplementation with carnosine represents one of the most powerful things you can do to hold back the ravages of old age.
- Vitamin E (500 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols)–We have talked a good deal about the health benefits of vitamin E already. Just make sure you use a complete vitamin E complex that contains all four tocopherols and all four tocotrienols. Don’t settle for just d-alpha, because, at best, it’s only the sixth most beneficial component.
- Vitamin C (500–1,000 mg)–The antioxidant benefits of vitamin C are invaluable. The trick is that almost all of the vitamin C sold today is in an isolate form that is extremely harsh on the body. You need 500–1,000 mg of vitamin C a day, but try to find it in a ‘living-food matrix,’ that is, bound to food so your body can effectively utilize it.”
Nearly all of these antioxidants can be found primarily in nutrient dense plant foods, herbs and spices. So load up on those health-promoting plant foods and cut down on the disease-causing, nutrient-depleted packaged foods.
Food in America is filled with empty calories. Although we eat all the time, we are in a state of malnutrition. The foods we eat do not contain the ingredients our bodies require to properly regulate our immune, endocrine, neurological and emotional responses. Make no mistake about it; there is a severe price to be paid for this malnutrition in the form of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, allergies, skin disease, poor cognitive function, excessive depression and perhaps most of all, exaggerated aging.
One of the Primary Food Filters we employ to help us select only the best foods for thriving health and better blood sugar control is to determine the nutrient density of foods. We have not yet grasped the concept of nutrient density as we should. we are led to believe that processed foods labeled “low-fat” or “low-carb,” and “artificially sweetened” make up a healthy diet. Nutrient Density is a critical concept in dietary and nutritional considerations. Not merely vitamins and minerals, but adequate consumption of phytochemicals is essential for proper functioning of the immune system and to enable our body’s detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms that protect us from chronic diseases. Our 113-page Primary Food Filters downloadable, printable special report will fully equip you to make the best food and ingredient choices following the Health-e-Solutions lifestyle.