Glutathione is the front line in our body’s defense system. Inactivity, insomnia, pollution, and even healthy aging are just a few pieces of normal life that can increase damaging oxidation and inflammation. In our last post, we covered the lifestyle decisions that can enhance our glutathione. Exercise, good sleep, and getting rid of stressful triggers with yoga or meditation are some of the most powerful ways to decrease oxidative stress.
But what if we don’t have the time to exercise or sleep enough every day? When you’re being pulled from all sides, sometimes it feels impossible to take a moment for yourself, let alone an extra hour for a yoga session!
The good news is: you can keep up a healthy antioxidant system with what you eat too! Eating lots of colorful plants, healthy fats, and cutting out processed foods and sugar are the sure-fire ways to up your antioxidant power.
When all else fails, natural supplements can raise glutathione as well. More is not always better when it comes to antioxidant supplements. In fact, taking high dose vitamin C and E supplements can prevent some of the positive adaptations to endurance training. Yikes! You don’t want your anti-inflammatory supplements to work so well that they block healthy, adaptive inflammation too!
Instead of focusing on antioxidants themselves, we’ll be looking at the supplements that can raise your whole antioxidant system. Plus, we’ll look into the research behind some bunk claims from less trustworthy sources on the internet. Even though we’re taking a look at the research to empower you to make your best decisions, it is still important to discuss any new supplements with your healthcare provider.
Besides your greens and pungent veggies, other sulfur-rich foods help keep glutathione levels up. For a list of other foods high in sulfur, see our post “Not your normal antioxidants: glutathione and sulfur”.
Generally speaking, if you have a condition that depletes antioxidants or lowers muscle strength like natural aging, supplementation might be helpful to get your levels back to a healthy baseline. But if you are already pretty healthy, antioxidant supplements might be doing more harm - especially if you’re trying to maximize your workout!
Take for example, a study done with Taekwondo competitors. Yes, short-term supplementing with 2000 mg of vitamin C and 1400 IUs of vitamin E (those are some high doses!) lowers muscle damage and inflammatory responses. But it’s been shown over and over that whether you’re training for strength or for endurance, as much as those antioxidants might lower the pain, they can also lower the gains (check out this study, this one, this detailed review on antioxidants in resistance training and this great review of antioxidants in endurance training). If you want to prevent massive damage to your muscles after a workout, go for it, but don’t go crying when long-term use leads to weaker, slower muscles!
Find glycine in animal products like meat, low-temperature treated whey protein, bone broth, or at lower levels in veggie proteins like nuts and beans. It’s especially high in our versatile and delicious collagen blend!
Think that going carnivore might pass as a good way to get your glycine? Think again! If you’re eating a lot of meat and not enough collagen you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Because of the way one of the proteins which is high in meat (methionine) interacts with glycine (which is high in collagen and organ meats and higher in plant-based diets), you should get 1 gram of collagen for every 10 grams of animal meat. This translates to grabbing one serving of collagen for every half pound steak you throw on the grill! It may be hard to get enough glycine to support your best joint, bone, mental, and anti-oxidative health in your food alone, so think about varying up your routine a bit with supplemental sources of glycine.
Keeping a good level of selenium might be harder than it looks. Levels in food can be low or high depending on where you live, and might be changing with global climate changes, so it’s hard to say if you’re getting enough even with a healthy diet. Get it in a handful of Brazil nuts, most seafood, and organ meats. Wondering if you’re getting too much? Stay tuned for our next post on antioxidant recycling, but we’ll give you a hint now: watch out for a fruity breath!
Work hard, rest hard, and eat a varied, generally good diet that includes a lot of vegetables, high quality organ meats, and the occasional supplement if you need it to maximize your glutathione. The most impactful recommendations are:
✅ Eat the rainbow, including greens and pungent white veggies like garlic and onion.
✅ Try out a Mediterannean diet with lots of plants, some seafood and meats, and enough olive oil to bathe in. (Just kidding, but studies use 1 liter (about 1 quart) a week as a healthy amount.)
✅ Alcohol saps your antioxidants, so drink an amount that lets you feel great the next day and consider wine or non-alcoholic beer.
✅ Get glutathione from food in juicy fruits and veggies, walnuts, almonds, and lean meats.
✅ Get glycine from food in collagen, like our delicious collagen recovery blend.
✅ Get other nutrients to support your antioxidant system in liver and organ meats, poultry, lean meats, seafood
✅ If lifestyle and diet aren’t going to work for you, some supplements you could consider include glutathione, N-acetyl-cysteine, glycine, and selenium-rich foods.
Whether you’re a young athlete pushing yourself to your limit, or your youth has been ousted by wisdom, start with your lifestyle, then focus in on what you eat, and finally supplement if you’re worried about low glutathione status to keep your defenses up!
Your glutathione levels might be up, but is the whole system working in top shape? Learn more about enhancing your whole-body system to defend against inflammation and oxidation in our next post on the micronutrients that support your whole antioxidant system.
Comment below with your thoughts and questions and we’ll get back to you in future posts.
Click here to subscribe to your trusted source for nutrition, supplements and healthy living information. See our next post in this series on total antioxidant capacity with “How to Keep Your Antioxidant System Running Smoothly”. You do not want to miss out on it!
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