The Power of Anti-Oxidants

From Christmas excess to radical new mNRA therapies it’s time we drilled down into de-toxification in the body.

The body’s cells face formidable threats, from lack of food to infection with viruses. Another constant threat comes from chemicals called free radicals which are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. The body generates free radicals as the inevitable byproducts of turning food into energy. Others are in the food you eat and the air you breathe. Some are generated by sunlight’s action on the skin and eyes.

Free radicals come in many shapes, sizes, and chemical configurations. What they all share is a voracious appetite for electrons, stealing them from any nearby substances that will yield them. This electron theft can radically alter the ‘losers’ structure or function. Free radical damage can change the instructions coded in a strand of DNA. For example, it can make a circulating low-density lipoprotein molecule more likely to get trapped in an artery wall. Or it can alter a cell’s membrane, changing the flow of what enters the cell and what leaves it.

Just as water douses fire we are not defenseless against free radicals. The body, long used to this relentless attack, makes molecules that quench free radicals. We also extract free-radical fighters from food. These defenders are often lumped together as ‘antioxidants’. They work by generously giving electrons to free radicals without turning into electron-scavenging substances themselves.

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of different substances that can act as antioxidants. The most familiar ones are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other related carotenoids, along with the minerals selenium and manganese. They’re joined by glutathione, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, and many more.

But using the term ‘antioxidant’ to refer to substances is misleading. It is really a chemical property, namely, the ability to act as an electron donor. Each one has unique chemical behaviors and biological properties. This means that no single substance can do the work of the whole crowd, so they are not interchangeable.

Describing Anti-oxidants

The body makes some of the antioxidants it uses to neutralize free radicals. These free radicals are called ‘endogenous’ antioxidants. However, the body relies on external (exogenous) sources, primarily the diet, to obtain the rest of the antioxidants it needs.  These exogenous antioxidants are commonly called dietary antioxidants.

Fruits, vegetables and grains are rich sources of dietary antioxidants. There are thousands of antioxidant compounds, however the mains ones are flavanols (found in chocolate), resveratrol (found in wine) and lycopene (found in tomatoes). Other popular antioxidants include vitamins A (beta-cartone), C,E and catechins.

The body creates Oxidants to help fend off viruses and microbes, but if there are too many, they can cause serious damage and contribute to certain cancers and heart disease and so there needs to be a balance between antioxidants to oxidants.

If there are too many antioxidants, the body can suppress its own ability to turn on its antioxidant defense system. This is because antioxidants work synergistically and require a wide array of different types of antioxidants rather than a large concentration of one group of antioxidants to work properly.

Therefore, it is best that antioxidants come from real, whole natural food rather than extracted, concentrated sources.


Important Antioxidants

Anthocyanins: Provide a broad range of health benefits and are found abundantly in berries, eggplant, red cabbage, red grapes and       other richly-colored food plants and purple-colored pigments in plants.

Polyphenols: Are a group of several thousand phytochemicals with antioxidant properties, mostly found in chocolate, but more recently in turmeric.

Curcuminoids: These polyphenol turmeric compounds have a myriad of health benefits as they protect and promote health by activating the immune system, protecting the brain and influencing gene expression.

Beta-Carotene: Found naturally in carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, mangos, spinach, squash, tomato, cantalope and peaches. Inside the body it’s converted into vitamin A.

Lycopene: Found in tomatoes, watermelons and papayas. Like beta-carotene, it is a carotenoid, a type of chemical with antioxidant properties. It has been found to contribute to a lower risk of prostate cancer, blood clots and stroke.

Vitamin C: Also called ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that supports the immune system and good health all round.

Vitamin E: Known for its antioxidant properties and found in sunflower and safflower oil, green vegies, nuts and seeds.

Selenium: Is an essential mineral and antioxidant that’s critical for thyroid health. The body does not produce Selenium, so it must come from dietary sources or supplements. Sources include brazil nuts, button and shitake mushrooms, lima beans, chia seeds and brown rice.


Top 10 High Antioxidant Food List


Today, the level of antioxidants in any substance or food source is evaluated with an ORAC score, which stands for ‘oxygen radical absorption capacity’. ORAC tests the power of a plant to absorb and eliminate free radicals. These measurements were developed by the National institute of Aging and are based on 100 grams of each food or herb. Potentially the higher the ORAC score the better.

Based on ORAC scores provided by various research centers, below are the top antioxidant foods by weight. This means that it might not be practical to eat high amounts of all these antioxidant foods.

  1. Goji berries: 25,000 ORAC score
  2. Wild berries: 14,000 ORAC score
  3. Dark Chocolate: 21,000 ORAC score
  4. Pecans:             17,000 ORAC score
  5. Artichoke: 9,400   ORAC score
  6. Elderberries: 14,000 ORAC score
  7. Kidney beans: 8,400   ORAC score
  8. Cranberries: 9,500   ORAC score
  9. Blackberries: 5,300   ORAC score
  10. Coriander : 5,100   ORAC score

Other antioxidant foods, not listed above, which are still great sources and highly beneficial, include common foods like tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, strawberries, kale, broccoli, grapes or red wine, squash and will-caught salmon.

Recommendation is to try to consume at least three to four servings daily of these high antioxidant foods for optimal health.


Top 10 High Antioxidant Herbs List

Along with antioxidant foods, certain herbs, spices and essential oils derived from nutrient-dense plants are extremely high in healing antioxidant compounds.

When added to the diet these herbs can provide increased protection against disease. Many of these herbs/spices are also available in concentrated essential oil form. 100% pure (therapeutic grade) oils are the highest antioxidants:

  1. Clove: 314,446 ORAC score
  2. Cinnamon: 267,537 ORAC score
  3. Oregano: 159,271 ORAC score
  4. Turmeric: 102,700 ORAC score
  5. Cocoa: 80,933   ORAC score
  6. Cumin: 76,800   ORAC score
  7. Parsley: 74,349   ORAC score
  8. Basil: 67,533   ORAC score
  9. Ginger: 28,811   ORAC score
  10. Thyme: 27,426   ORAC score

Other antioxidant-rich herbs include garlic, cayenne pepper and green tea.  Consume two to three servings of these herbs or herbal teas daily.


Top 10 High Antioxidant Supplements

It is recommended getting antioxidants from whole foods and a wide variety of foods.

Whilst it is ideal and usually more beneficial to source antioxidants or other nutrients from real food sources, certain types may also be helpful when consumed in supplement form.

There is debate which antioxidants may offer help preventing or treating diseases when consumed in concentrated dosages. Some research has shown that antioxidants like lutein and glutathione may be beneficial when taken in supplement form (eg in preventing vision loss, joint problems or diabetes), but other research doesn't’t always show the same results and sometimes even certain supplements like vitamin A may be harmful in high amounts.

If a person is generally healthy and eats a varied diet, they may not benefit from taking antioxidants supplements. However, if the person is at risk for something like vision loss or heart disease the following antioxidant supplements in proper doses (and with a healthy lifestyle) might be helpful:

  1. Glutathione: is considered the body’s most important antioxidant because it’s found within the cells and helps boost activities of other antioxidants or vitamins. It’s is a peptide consisting of three amino acids that plays several vital roles in the body, including helping with protein use, synthesis of enzymes, detoxification, digestion of fats and destruction of cancer 
  2. Quercetin: Derived naturally from foods like berries and leafy greens, is safe for almost everyone and poses little risks. Helps manage a number of inflammatory health problems including heart disease and blood vessel problems, allergies, infections, chronic fatigue and symptoms of autoimmune disorders like arthritis.
  3. Lutein: Has benefits for the eyes, skin, arteries heart and immune system. Food sources such as spinach, broccoli , kale ,carrots , tomato  & eggs are more effective and safer than supplements.
  4. Vitamin C: Known for improving immunity, protects against colds and flu viruses and potentially cancer, skin and eye problems.
  5. Resveratrol: An active ingredient found in cocoa, red grapes and dark berries. It’s a polyphonic bioflavonoid antioxidant produced by plants as a response to stress, injury and fungal infection, helping protect the heart and arteries.
  6. Astaxanthin: Found in wild caught salmon and krill and has benefits reducing age spots, boosting energy and joint health.
  7. Selenium: A trace mineral found naturally in the soil that also appears in certain foods. It supports the adrenal and thyroid glands and helps protect cognition. It may also fight of viruses and defend against heart disease and asthma.
  8. Lavender Oil: This essential oil reduces inflammation and helps the body in many ways including producing important antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase.
  9. Chlorophyll: Is very helpful for detoxification and linked to natural cancer prevention, blocking carcinogenic effects within the body, and protecting DNA from damage caused by toxins or stress
  10. Frankincense: An essential oil shown to be a vital treatment for various forms of cancer, including breast, brain, colon and prostate cancers. It has the ability to regulate cellular epigenetic function which has a positive effect on genes for healing.


Top Health Benefits of Antioxidant Foods

  • Slows the Effects of Aging by Reducing Free Radical Damage

Free radicals are responsible for contributing to many health issues and have connections to such diseases as cancer and premature aging of the skin or eyes. Antioxidant counteract these free radicals to prevent the body from the damage caused by oxygen.

  • Protects Vision & Eyes

The antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta- carotene have all been shown to have positive effects on preventing macular degeneration.

  • Reduce the Effects of Aging on the Skin

Free radicals speed up the aging process when it comes to the appearance and health of your skin. Vitamin A and C decrease wrinkles and skin dryness and vitamin C helps reduce the effect of oxidative damage caused by pollution, stress or poor diet.

  • Help Prevent Stroke & Heart Disease

Since antioxidants help prevent damage to tissues and cells caused by free radicals, they’re needed to protect against heart disease and stroke. High levels vitamin C have been associated with a 50% decreased risk of stroke. Conversely, certain studies have found that using vitamin E or beta-carotene supplements should be avoided as they can increase the risk of heart-related mortality.

  •  May Help Decrease the Risk of Cancer

Antioxidants could help prevent or treat several forms of cancer thanks to their ability to control malignant cells in the body, cause cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of cancer cells.

  • Help Prevent Cognitive Decline

Oxidative stress is believed to play a central role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, but a nutrient-rich diet seems to lower one's risk. Higher intake of foods rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, may modestly reduce long-term risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s and have better protection over cognition.

  • Heart Disease

Whilst there are several factors that can contribute to heart disease, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that a critical step in its development is the oxidization of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) within the arterial wall. There are several studies that link low intakes of dietary antioxidants to an increased frequency of heart disease.  Antioxidants have been shown to prevent LDL oxidation and retard the progression of atherosclerosis . It has been estimated that dietary increases in antioxidant vitamins may reduce the risk of heart disease by 20-30%

  • Cancer

Epidemiological evidence consistently relates low antioxidant intake or low blood levels of antioxidants with increased cancer risk. A low dietary intake of fruits and vegetables doubles the risk of most types of cancers.

It is believed that antioxidants exert their protective effect by decreasing oxidative damage to DNA and by decreasing abnormal increases in cell division.

Well over 100 studies have reported that reduction in cancer risk is associated with a diet high  in vitamin C.

Additional anticancer activities have been observed from several plant-derived substances. Sulfur containing phytochemicals (garlic, onions, leek), and isothyocyanates and sulphoraphane (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) have been shown to inhibit tumor development.

  • Pulmonary Disorders

The respiratory tract is a major target for free radicals. Free radicals may be involved in the development of disorders such as asthma. Vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation has been associated with improved pulmonary function. Glutathione, or N-acetyl cysteine, may be helpful in protecting against pulmonary damage also.