How to Eat to Make the Most of Your Antioxidants

Remember playing “hot-potato” as a kid?  Whether it was just a fast-paced game of catch or it was literally a steaming tuber being tossed around, speed and urgency are the name of the game.

The way your body deals with free radicals - the little, unstable molecules that can lead to inflammation if left unchecked - has to be fast too. Pick up that hot ember, quickly make a decision on who to pass it to, and then wait for when another one comes around to you. Even though your antioxidant system coordinates this at the tiniest scale, how well it works has big implications for your energy levels, healthy aging, and joint and heart health.

Your standard vitamins A, C, and E take care of the quick response.  Healthy glutathione levels provide the power to deal with the hot potato game of oxidative damage (check out our other posts if you want to learn more about glutathione - a hint: it might be your most important antioxidant, but you can’t supplement to get more). But what happens to your antioxidants in the process? 

Damaged glutathione and other antioxidants have to be recycled. In a sense, the troops have to be refreshed before they go back to keeping the peace with inflammation. If we were to play a full scale game of hot potato, with the potato being a free radical, there would be three classes of defenses to keep in mind: security, medics, and waste management.

Security and Communications: Selenium

Selenium is a part of selenocysteine. It’s a special amino acid that works in a protein to receive damaged glutathione and signal the rest of the peacekeepers to mount a defense. Higher selenium levels are linked to increased glutathione processing power, but that doesn’t mean everyone should just go and start supplementing with selenium!  Go too much over the recommended 400 micrograms per day and you’ll have some serious repercussions! Keep reading for the information you need to keep your selenium optimized.

Medical team: Copper, Zinc, and Manganese

These minerals have many other important roles in the body. In combination with glucosamine and chondroitin, supplementing with manganese is linked better joint health in older adults with osteoarthritis. High quality research suggests zinc might be helpful to take at the start of a cold to support the immune system’s activity. Low copper levels might be associated with heart disease and supplementing can increase some positive measures of heart health.

In the antioxidant system, copper, zinc, and manganese work to get glutathione back out on the front lines.  Copper supplementation has been shown to increase glutathione recycling systemsZinc raises the same enzyme that helps keep glutathione working well.  Even though it might not...

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